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Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste accuses of ‘left’ Presidential candidate Mélenchon of using far-right rhetoric.

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Accused of being  nationalist, chauvinist, racist, germanophobe and a great friend of Putin.

Le NPA accuse Mélenchon de reprendre “la rhétorique de l’extrême droite”.

Reports the Huffington Post French edition.

Leading Nouveau Parti anticapitaliste figure, Olivier Besancenot, said this: one gaff too many?

The NPA has published a virulent – to say the very least – attack on ‘populist’ Mélenchon who standing as a candidate in next year’s French Presidential election and is the leader of a small group, the Parti de gauche (left party), essentially a political club around his own personality.

At present his campaign  « La France insoumise, le peuple souverain. » (internet JLM2017) has become ‘populist’ and aims to be mobilise the ‘people’ against the ‘elites’. (1) He has declared that unless the European Union changes France should follow the UK and leave (Brexit: «L’UE, on la change ou on la quitte», affirme Jean-Luc Mélenchon)

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He is neck and neck in the opinion polls with the Parti Socialiste François Hollande and present President – which is not saying much since at 15% each  not a single poll gives either any chance of winning.

Mélenchon : le dérapage de trop ?

More on this article here:  « Travailleurs détachés » : Le NPA accuse Mélenchon de reprendre « la rhétorique de l’extrême droite »  CLAVEL Geoffroy, RAGUET Alexandre.

The reason?

Jean-Luc Mélenchon made a speech in which he accused workers employed in France, but still formally under the  pay andconditions of their home countries (posted employees), of stealing the bread out of the mouths of local workers.

This is his expression: the  “travailleurs détachés” qui “vole(nt leur) pain” aux travailleurs locaux.”

Travailleurs détachés : les curieux propos de Mélenchon

Je crois que l’Europe qui a été construite, c’est une Europe de la violence sociale, comme nous le voyons dans chaque pays chaque fois qu’arrive un travailleur détaché, qui vole son pain aux travailleurs qui se trouvent sur place. »

I consider that the Europe that has been built is a Europe based on social violence, as we seen in every country when a posted worker comes and steals the bread out of the mouths of the workers who are already there.

As the article title suggests, the original reads just as oddly as the translation which I have rendered into colloquial English.

Many on the French left are now criticising the former leading figure of the Front de gauche, who launched on his own initiative a Presidential bid, addressing ‘The People’,   of being “nationaliste, chauvin, raciste, germanophobe et poutinophile” – nationalist, chauvinist, racist, germanophobe and a great friend of Putin.

(1) Populisme et hégémonies culturelles : débat Laclau-Mouffe-Mélenchon.

The polemic continues.

Written by Andrew Coates

July 22, 2016 at 12:21 pm

After the Summer of Love, the Summer of Labour as Counter-Power: Paul Mason.

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After the Summer of Love the Summer of Labour as Counter-Power.

Corbyn: the summer of hierarchical things Paul Mason.

Labour can become the counter-power.

Extracts,

My first experience of the labour movement was going to the Leigh Miners’ Gala, in the 1960s, aged about six or seven. I remember, amid the tight throng of people, one striking image: a boxing ring, in which a local slugger was taking on all comers.

The flesh of the fighters was red and bruised. One man had blood on his face, another a stupid smile: the challengers were mainly drunk. They slammed their gloves into each other’s ribs with such force I can hear it now.

And then my father’s hand slid up to my forehead and covered my eyes. “Don’t look,” he said.

That’s what the working class gained by forming a movement of its own. Something that could co-exist with the brutality of everyday life and at the same time shield us from it. Something that allowed you to live inside the system and at the same time nurture the ideal of something different.

Years later I discovered there was a word to describe this: “counter-power”. A set of ideas, traditions and actions that lets you both survive within capitalism and fight against it.

..

After 2008, the counter-power was reborn. No longer centred on the old working class, it was simply “us” — the crapped-upon masses. The barista, the courier, the lawyer, the shipping clerk. Those were the people I met occupying Gezi Park in Istanbul in 2013. Anarchists in black balaclavas yes — but also pissed-off guy with gym membership and a Besiktas season ticket.

The 2011–13 uprisings — Tahrir, Occupy, the Spanish indignados, Taksim, Brasil — were mass phenomena that, even when suppressed and defeated, left a residue: ideas, patterns of organisation, networks, as Manuel Castells put it, of “outrage and hope”.

..

Finally came the Brexit referendum: the ultimate act of miscalculation, in which Project Fear 2.0 misfired and the UK kickstarted the breakup of globalisation.

You can take the state, said Gramsci: but capital has line after line of trenches and fortifications beyond it.

..

Corbyn’s victory in 2015, Brexit in 2016 and the near victory of the Scottish yes campaign in 2014 all held out the possibility of a effortless exit from a dying and unpopular neo-liberal structure.

A kind of “free revolution”, handed to you by a hapless elite, where all you had to do was tick a box.

But revolutions are never effortless. The revolution that’s put Podemos on 20% in Spain, and Syriza into power in Greece, involved masses of people on the streets, resisting the elite’s attacks, and creating a new kind of power in communities and on the streets and in universities and schools.

This is the modern counter-power, and Corbyn’s election was only ever a reflection of it.

Detailed comment would be superfluous on such momentous thoughts.

We can only suggest that people read the full version.

Brief Notes for further reflection on Cde Mason’s theses.

  • The break-up of globalisation begun by Brexit. Really?
  • Near victory of pro-business nationalists in Scotland as a near triumph for opponents of neo-liberalism….sure….
  • Podemos, who recently failed to get anywhere near power (despite predictions that they would win) in recent election as example of ‘counter-power’.   (Spain’s Conservative PP wins rerun election, Podemos upset by surprisingly low results:  2016 election results PP 33.02%; PSOE 22.68%; UNIDOS PODEMOS 21.11%; Abstentions 30.16% )
  • The latest version of the Indignados, Nuit Debout, in France, already disintegrating in abstraction and futility.
  • Ah yes Syriza, Greece. Well.

I never liked Boxing me.

Or the film Fight Club.

Written by Andrew Coates

July 13, 2016 at 4:16 pm

Socialist Fight – Gerry Downing and Ian Donovan – backs “anti-Zionist fighter Malia Bouattia” in attack on “vile reactionary” Tendance.

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Ipswich Workers’ Militia: Preparing for NATO Application.

What a vile reactionary Andrew Coates is to attack this courageous left-wing woman, an Algerian Muslim anti-racist and anti-Zionist fighter Malia Bouattia, new President of the National Union of Students in this appalling post. She has faced attacks from the Tories, the Zionist lobby, the right wing in Labour and bogus ‘leftist’ like the pro-Zionists Andrew Coates whose attack on her in his Tendance Coatesy blog finishes, ‘The Gerry Downing-Socialist Fight  style  anti-imperialism of fools which led, and justified a rejection do support for the Kurdish people in their hour of need  signals a broader problem’. We confidently expect that both Malia and Socialist Fight will continue to supply all these vile reactionaries with even greater ‘problems’ in future.

Socialist Fight.

The Tendance is at the heart of the Ipswich Workers’ Militia,  known and loved in the movement.

An emergency meeting of our Central Committee was held last night to discuss our response to the dangers that  the Liaison Committee for the Fourth International’s challenge may present.

It was noted with concern that cde Downing and Donovan’s sterling record of fighting against ‘Zionists’ and the ‘pan-national Jewish bourgeoisie’, has won them many allies amongst international progressives, above all the respected Gilad Atzmon. (1)

In response, recalling the spirit of the 1930s ‘Popular Fronts’, we have decided, under Article 10 of  the ‘open door’ policy, to apply for NATO membership forthwith.

(1) Gilad Atzmon on “the Jewish Solidarity Spin”  By Ian Donovan  http://commexplor.com/

I am taking the liberty of republishing this, not because I agree with everything in it, but because it contains a great deal of profound material that Marxist critics of Zionism and its supporters, Jewish and non-Jewish, in the advanced capitalist world, ought to find invaluable.

Gilad Atzmon’s Blog.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

April 26, 2016 at 11:31 am

Frédéric Lordon, Nuit Debout ‘Leader’: Diamond Geezer, or….Not?

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Frédéric Lordon: Diamond Geezer of Nuit Debout? 

In the March’s Le Monde Diplomatique Frédéric Lordon’s Pour la république sociale discussed the end of social democracy and its surrender to the “empire du capital”. He called for the “socical republic”, a slogan with deep resonance on the French left, going back to the 1848 Revolution, and to the writings of Jean Jaurès.

The goal of this republic should be expanded ‘total’ democracy but equally,

…l’abolition de la propriété lucrative — non pas bien sûr par la collectivisation étatiste (dont le bilan historique est suffisamment bien connu…), mais par l’affirmation locale de la propriété d’usage (6), à l’image de tout le mouvement des sociétés coopératives et participatives (SCOP), des entreprises autogérées d’Espagne ou d’Argentine, etc. : les moyens de production n’« appartiennent » qu’à ceux qui s’en servent.

The abolition of profit-making property – not by state collectivisation (whose historical balance-sheets is sufficiently well known…) but through the local assertion of the right to use property, on the model of the broad co-operative and participative movement, self-managed enterprises in n Spain and Argentina, etc; the means of production belong only to those who make use of them.

Having read Lordon’s writings (see also his Blog), with respect if rarely complete agreement, for some years it was nevertheless a surprise to see his rise to national prominence in the wake of the Nuit Debout movement.

Lordon played an instrumental role in the rise of the Nuit debout movement. He wrote a piece in the February 2016 issue of Le Monde diplomatique on François Ruffin‘s film, Merci patron!, describing the film as a clarion call for a potential mass uprising. This prompted Ruffin to organise a public meeting which led to the organisation of the public occupation of Paris’s Place de la République on 31 March 2016. Lordon delivered a speech at the 31 March protest, highlighting the goal of uniting disparate protest movements. He subsequently refused to talk to national media about his role in the movement, explaining that he did not wish to be seen as the leader of a leaderless movement.

Wikipedia. 

Verso has just published (amongst other Lordon material) a translated an interview with the radical economist and social theorist which carries some important observations about the Nuit Debout movement, and more widely, about the crisis of the European left.

Apart from an illuminating account of the origins of the protests (which have spread to scores of French cities and towns, though drawing  predominantly educated crowds rather than people from the banlieues) and the role of François Ruffin’s film Merci patron!  this section  is of great interest to those tending to emphasise the convergences between Nuit Debout and the political expression, Podemos, of the Indignados movement:

Podemos in Spain has repeatedly said that we should no longer speak of Left and Right, but rather of top and bottom, the 1 percent against the 99 percent. Do you agree ?

I completely disagree with this stance of Podemos. In France the denials of the Left-Right split have had very bad echoes. We hear this in the mouths of both what I would call the general Right — namely, the classical Right and the new Right that is the Parti Socialiste; if you will, the general Right is the undifferentiated party of managing neoliberal globalisation — and the far Right. Someone in France who says he is “neither Left or Right” is unfailingly right-wing, or will end up being so. Similarly, I don’t think that monetary inequality — on which basis Podemos converts the Left-Right split into the split between the 99 percent and the 1 percent — is a very incisive political theme. The topic of inequalities is, in any case, becoming a kind of flabby consensus — we even find the OECD or a liberal magazine like The Economist talking about it…

The true question is not the inequality of incomes or wealth, but the question of the fundamental political inequality that capitalism itself establishes: that wage-earners live under relations of subordination and obedience. The wage-relation is less a principle of monetary inequalities than a relation of domination, and this is the principle of a fundamental inequality — a political inequality.

Frédéric Lordon: “We have to stop saying what we don’t want, and start saying what we do want”

Marta Fana’s interview with economist Frédéric Lordon was published in Italian in Il Manifesto and in French in ReporterreTranslated by David Broder.

There remain issues about Lordon’s outlook.

New Left Review recently published this overview of his writing:

A STRUCTURALISM OF FEELING? Alberto Toscano. 

Though less well-known in the Anglophone world, the economist turned social philosopher Frédéric Lordon has emerged as one of the most effective public figures of the French intellectual left. On tv talk-shows and in La Pompe à Phynance, his blog for Le Monde diplomatique, he has launched ferocious attacks on Hollande and Valls’s post-Bataclan police-state legislation, making no concessions to union sacrée thinking. [1] He has been a staunch left critic of the single-currency project, demolishing wistful social-democratic hopes for ‘another euro’, and makes no bones about characterizing the ps as ‘the moderate fraction of the right’. He greeted the financial crisis with a four-act play in rhyming alexandrines, the bankers explaining the tragi-comedy of their subprime losses to the President of the Republic and ministers of state. At the same time, Lordon has been developing an ambitious research agenda, aiming to renew and re-ground the social sciences on the basis of a Spinoza-inspired materialism. What are the origins of this project, and what have been its results to date?

It would be necessary to reproduce the entire article to go into the detail of Lordon’s project but these, less than encouraging, elements, stand out:

A return to the national level was the most viable way to ‘deconstitutionalize’ economic policy. In a spirited concluding chapter, he argued for the left to reclaim la patrie from the Front National by means of Article Four of the 1793 Constitution, granting full citizenship rights to any foreigner who has been resident in France for a year—‘no risk the fn will take that nation from us.’

..

Imperium then launches into a swingeing attack on the anti-nationalist left, targeting ‘the grotesque claims of the well-off’ for a ‘liberation from belonging’, without acknowledging how much they benefit from their own belonging. Lordon contrasts this to the reality of statelessness, the nightmare of absolute non-inclusion, surviving like the sans-papiers without rights—and indeed fighting for citizenship, for belonging. [20] The experience of involuntary migration may rather serve to sharpen awareness of national difference: against protestations that the proletariat has no country, the workless proletarians in the Calais ‘Jungle’ are said to fight on a national basis: Eritreans against Sudanese or Syrians. [21]

To disavow national affects in the metropole while allowing them, romantically or condescendingly, for the subaltern, is mere hypocrisy. One is never totally free of national belonging: we are seized by a nation from our very first day, raised in its language and ways of thinking. Badiou, for example, is ‘profoundly French’. [22] The Europeanist post-nationalism of Habermas and Beck is singled out in this acerbic catalogue as the grossest fallacy of all, its claim ‘to have done with the nation’ simply paving the way for a supra-national power endowed with all the characteristics its authors claim to abhor. Dardot and Laval’s Commun (2014) also comes under fire, while a detour through seventeenth-century theories of sovereignty, counterposing Bodin and Althusius, reveals the limits of a federalist political imaginary in the latter’s theory of consociatio. Ultimately, bodies are not delocalizable; the place where one lives—even as an enemy of the state, a secessionist group or a counter-cultural commune—is always part of the territory of a community. Rather than indulge in these ‘impossible disaffiliations’, Lordon calls for the sharpest critique of nationalist historiography, the record of internal repression and external aggression, as the best defence against national-chauvinist passions.

The “political anthropology” Lordon offers, grounded on the notion of inherent human conatus “effort; endeavour; impulse, inclination, tendency; undertaking; striving”) an inclination of a thing to continue to exist and enhance itself, calls for recognition of the “sense of belonging” is even less attractive (see also, Review by Jean-Marie Harribey : Frédéric Lordon, Capitalisme, désir et servitude. Marx et Spinoza, 2010).

To Toscano it is  “a Spinozian conception of the community constituted by convergence around a shared emotion—a common view of good and evil, for example—which the vertical of sovereignty then establishes as a condition of membership. The community’s feeling for itself exceeds the individual”.

Thus, “with Spinoza completed by Bourdieu, but also brought into hypothetical alignment with Regulation Theory, the argument seems to be that the potentia of the multitude is realized through the institutional processes that constitute its various ‘regimes of capture’. “

Toscano argues,

 More gravely, this approach almost entirely bypasses the question of the capitalist state. [35] When Lordon does ultimately broach the issue of relations between wealth and power, the results are a good deal less illuminating about the specific operations of either than was La Politique du capital. Indeed, at the level of generality at which Lordon has chosen to operate here, what can distinguish capitalist power from imperium? [36] In asserting the trans-historical existence of the state without specifying the genesis of its forms, Lordon leaves himself bereft of any protocol for moving from the general theory to the historical conjuncture. Imperium supplies no theoretical mediation to traverse the space between philosophical concept and social reality: yet re-entry from the exospheric heights of abstract speculation into Earth’s atmosphere often causes conflagration.

Whether Lordon has “no illusions” about his turn to the national we can;t help noticing that he talked in Le Monde Diplomatique about “la”  République sociale, that is France, and not une République sociale européenne, still less an international, world-wide political objective.

One might say that the emphasis on the sense of belonging and the – however social –  national state skirts uncomfortably close to sovereigntism. It is worth noting that reviews of Merci Patron state that it is “critical of the practice of outsourcing French jobs to foreign labour.” specifically a factory relocation to Poland.

As Lordon says of the Euro,

La souveraineté, non comme talisman, mais comme condition de possibilité de toute politique progressiste — car répétons-le : la sortie de l’euro n’est jamais qu’une condition nécessaire, et certainement pas suffisante

Sovereignty, not as a talisman, but a condition for the possibility of any progressive policies – because, we repeat, leaving the Euro, is only a necessary condition, not a sufficient one….

In these circumstances in July 2015 (La gauche et l’euro : liquider, reconstruire) he cited Owen Jones, and backed a stand which he claimed (before Owen’s turn to backing remaining in the European Union), the,

l’idée du Lexit (Left-Exit). Ça n’est plus tel ou tel pays qu’il faut faire sortir de l’euro : c’est la gauche elle-même.

The idea of Lexit (left-Exit). It’s not just such and such a country that has to come out of the Euro, but the Left itself.

Sure….. (1)

*****

(1) For those who read French: theoretical and highly abstract demolition of Imperium : Quelques remarques sur la philosophie de Frédéric Lordon Bruno Amable et Stefano Palombarini  is offered here.

L’État général prend de nos jours la forme de l’État-nation ; et l’affect commun correspondant est l’appartenance nationale. Ces deux affirmations (peu fondées théoriquement) conduisent FL à minorer l’importance des clivages et des rapports de forces sociaux à l’intérieur des frontières « statonationales ». Mais on voit bien le lien avec la vision des institutions proposée par Imperium : l’État capte la puissance de la multitude, et produit un corps politique qui tient sur la base du sentiment d’appartenance nationale. Les institutions découlent de l’État. Dans ce cadre, le conflit social est complètement neutralisé — l’affect « commun » est majoritaire, la construction institutionnelle est cohérente et le corps politique viable —, ou alors producteur de chaos : l’affect « commun » ne permet plus la viabilité d’un corps politique destiné à mourir (et à renaître sous d’autres formes : mais la forme même de l’État-nation sera alors destinée à disparaître). Cohérence institutionnelle et reproduction sociale, ou bien explosion du conflit, chaos et bouleversement complet des structures sociales. Il n’y a pas de place, dans ce cadre théorique, pour le conflit et le compromis comme sources des changements institutionnels qui accompagnent la vie d’une société et le développement d’un État. Nous avons aussi signalé que FL a le plus grand mal à analyser les rapports entre État et capital sans faire violence à son propre cadre théorique. Et on comprend pourquoi : le capital a bien impulsé des changements majeurs non seulement dans l’architecture institutionnelle mais dans les formes mêmes de l’intervention étatique, sans besoin de rendre socialement minoritaire l’affect commun de l’appartenance nationale, et sans produire le chaos qui accompagnerait la mort des corps politiques « statonationaux ».

Mais les changements institutionnels qui caractérisent la réalité concrète dans laquelle nous vivons ne sont pas l’objet central d’Imperium, qui s’intéresse bien davantage au contenu d’une perspective « révolutionnaire » bien particulière. Celle qui consisterait non pas à renverser les rapports de domination sociale existants, mais à marcher (difficilement et éternellement) vers le règne de la raison, dans lequel les hommes « règlent leurs désirs et leurs comportements sur ce qui ne peut rien produire d’autre que leur concorde ». Idéalement donc, plus de pouvoir ni d’institutions. Cet idéal — nous dit FL — est inatteignable, mais on peut s’en rapprocher en choisissant les « bonnes » institutions. De façon là encore assez étonnante, FL indique dans les « institutions de la science qui contraignent les scientifiques à la vertu scientifique, au moins autant que leur désir propre de la vérité scientifique » un modèle à imiter : « la vertu devient l’objet d’une politique des institutions bien agencées » (p. 306). Il ne s’agit donc pas de lutter pour des institutions correspondant à des rapports de forces différents, à une modification de la frontière dominants/dominés, mais de sélectionner les institutions sur la base de leur teneur d’universalité, de leur capacité à créer un environnement favorable au développement de la raison : les « bonnes » institutions sont celles qui nous déterminent à la « vertu ».

 To summarise, the critics consider the assertion that the affects (that is attachments hooked ultimately to the concept of conatus ) to the nation are primal, and the national locus of institutions, create a feeling of national identity, obscures internal social conflicts in states  and the place of conflict (agonistic, that is intellectual and political,  or social) in how states are created a condensations of conflict (class struggle).

Critics of the use of Spinoza in social theory would observe that this may be traced to an ontology grounded on ‘monist substance and the  absence of a concept of real oppositions and contradictions in the social fabric.

The ideal of ‘virtue’ animating this approach is particularly empty (second paragraph).

More: Au fait, que défend Frédéric Lordon ?

Written by Andrew Coates

April 19, 2016 at 10:23 am

And Yet. Essays. Christopher Hitchens. Review: Internationalism is the highest form of patriotism.

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And Yet. Essays. Christopher Hitchens. Atlantic Books.

The Syrian Social National Party (SSNP) thug Adonis Nasr, was killed fighting alongside Assad and Hezbollah’s forces in Latakia this week. This would have passed unnoticed in the world at large, accustomed as we are reports of nameless deaths in Syria, if he had not been one of a group that savagely beat Christopher Hitchens in Beirut in 2009. With the Syrian barbarous civil war in mind we might do worse than begin And Yet with Hitchens’ concluding words, “Patriotic and tribal feelings belong to the squalling childhood of the human race, and become no more charming in the senescence…. internationalism is the highest form of patriotism.”

The charm of Hitchens, a foppish coxcomb in the judgement of the “power-drunk micro-megalomaniac called George Galloway” was to offer criticisms of all that exists, and to pour icy water on Revelations from non-existence. The book  offer rich examples of his sceptical internationalism and patriotism.

And Yet, uncollected essays, including a three-part report on his efforts to improve his bodily heath On the Limits of self-Improvement, is brim full of popinjay insolence. Hitchens ranges from broader clinical judgements, the (present) Turkish President’s “morbid disorders of the personality”, Hilary Clinton’s weakness for porkies, starting with claims to be named after Sir Edmund Hilary, to the chiaroscuro of V.S. Naipaul’s Salisbury Plain Manor, an “emotional master-slave concentration camp built for two”. Ian Fleming’s interest in bottoms – at first sight an endearing quality – rapidly evaporates when his sadistic snobbery is indicated. One supposes that the public school educated Hitchens had yet to encounter the stronger meat circulated in our North London state school youth: the wank-books that began with Richard Allen’s Skinhead.

Hitchens was capable of essays of great moral seriousness. Rosa Luxemburg’s internationalism was “so strong she despised anything to do with lesser or sectarian ‘identities’” was matched by a personality “constantly distracted from politics by her humanism and her love for nature and literature. The comparison between George Orwell’s ‘list” of crypto-communists with co-operation with the Thought Police is rightly dismissed, “nobody suffered or could have suffered from Orwell’s private opinion”.

Sometimes, even so, Hitchens is led astray. Turkey’s greatest modern writer Orban Pamuk’s Snow (2004) is criticised for its – taken without comparison to a whole shelf of his other publications – indulgence towards Islamists. It also receives bad notes for its “stilted dialogue” – a brave commentary on a translation from a language separated by a gulf from English. Pamuk’s lack of “courage” to address the Armenian issue (are all Turkish novelists obliged to reference this, constantly?) nevertheless finds its remedy. A later piece gives due recognition for his court appearance in 2005 – charged with evoking the genocide.

Internationalism.

A little internationalism, Jean Jaurès remarked, takes one away from the country, a lot brings us back to it. The American Revolution, Hitchens remarks, is the “only one that still resonates”. Hitchens is a fine guide to the personalities, battle-fields, and tortuous procedures of the US politics that lay claim to the inspiration of the Founding Fathers. But we are not always treated to high politics. We learn that many of the inhabitants of the states of the former Confederacy, commit “offences against chastity with either domestic animals (or the fact must be faced) with members of the immediate families”. Red-Staters are also often chunky, we are informed. It is even less than unlikely that the scandal of Ohio push-button direct-recording electronic voting machines resound very far. And when one is reminded of Hitchens’ new nationality in sentences studded, or perhaps embossed with the past particle ‘gotten’, putting in CAPITALS a change of state, or becoming, one pines for the unobtrusive Englishness of the sequence, “get, got, got.”

A “supporter of the armed struggle against the forces of Al-Qaeda, the Taliban and Saddam Hussein” Hitchens has been accused of making reason the slave of the passions. This emotions were effectively marshalled against the forerunners of today’s Islamist genociders, authoritarian bullies of all stripes, and those ‘anti-imperialists’ who were complaisant about them, or complicit in their actions. But feelings, however morally intelligent, are shaky guides to internationalist policies. Few of his enemies would miss the chance to waggle their fingers at Hitchens’ urging of the invasion of Iraq which began the present Syrian conflicts in which X was entangled. The dire sequence that has followed these struggles – that is the US-led interventions and the present power plays – was there this week, in Latakia, Syria, for all to see.

Armed Missionaries.

The “failure to mesh human rights imperatives with geo-strategic and security ones” cannot be detached from Hitchens original parti pris. It was not the fight of the armed peoples against tyrants but the direct use of external force, of occupation, of regime-change from without, that remains at issue. No less a pacific figure than Robespierre once stated that nobody liked armed missionaries (Personne n’aime les missionnaires armés): you couldn’t export Liberty at bayonet point. Perhaps that lesson, from a Revolution that has inspired more universalism and internationalism than the American one, is worth remembering.

Written by Andrew Coates

February 26, 2016 at 1:46 pm

As Socialist Unity Criticises Galloway only Russia In Your Face! is alternative to the lying Western LAMEstream media!!!

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As Socialist Unity Wavers Russia in Your Face Stands True.

Socialist Unity is no more.

The beacon of the left has dimmed.

The author who brought to the world the TRUTH, has turned his coat.

Was it so long ago that John Wight wrote?

Vladimir Putin is probably the most popular Russian leader there has ever been, polling up around a phenomenal 80% as recently as November 2015 in a study carried out by a team of American researchers. This makes him inarguably the most popular world leader today, though you would think the opposite given the way he’s routinely depicted and demonized in the West.

While Vladimir Putin and his government are not beyond criticism – in fact, far from it – their misdeeds pale in comparison to the record of Western governments in destroying one country after the other in the Middle East, presiding over a global economy that has sown nothing but misery and despair for millions at home and abroad, leading in the last analysis to the normalization of crisis and chaos.

Their deeds, as the man said, would shame all the devils in hell.

Counterpunch.  January. 2016.

Now it looks as Wight’s career as an Op-Ed contributor to Russia Today (RT as we initiates call it) and the American Counterpunch, is at an end. He  has taking to telling the facts and naming very different names.

Galloway and – this is important bit – his life-support machine, Sputnik on RT are out….

But back to the UK and the EU referendum, where despite the attempt by a section of the left to assert that Brexit would make the prospect of implementing progressive and socialist ideas easier – specifically when it comes to taking key industries and services into public ownership – the reality is that the beneficiaries of Brexit would be the right and far right. The politics driving Brexit are the ugly politics of anti immigration, xenophobia, and British nationalism. If successful it would propel the vile reactionary views and worldview of people like Nigel Farage into the heart of the establishment, ensuring that already under pressure minority communities would find themselves placed under even more pressure.

The EU and its institutions merely reflect the economic and political hegemony of neoliberalism. They are a transmission belt delivering policies which reflect this hegemony, which will remain a fact of life the day after Brexit. This is why those on the left who are intent on campaiging for a No vote on June 23 are playing into the hands of Nigel Farage and UKIP, allowing themselves to be recruited as unwitting footsoldiers for the far right.

There is also the Corbyn factor to consider. At a time when Labour under his leadership is garnering such huge support across the country, and with the Tories in complete disarray over the EU, for anyone on the left to oppose Corbyn over the EU now is tantamount to sectarianism of the worst kind.

There is no viable socialist or progressive case for Britain’s exit from the EU in the present political climate. There is only surrender to right wing nostrums on immigration, multiculturalism, and something called British values.

John Wight. Socialist Unity February. 2106.

Wight is rumoured to be about to run a Post on the links between anti-EU campaigners on the hard right and Russia…..

Now, alone and embattled, only Russia in Your Face Stands up for the Truth!

Open Letter to my Leftist Friends: Why we must support Putin. Angela Baker

So like, I’m a hardcore radical leftist. I’m anti-war, anti-imperialist, anti-militarism, anti-Zionism, etc. I marched against BusHitler’s war on Iraq in 2003, Obomber’s drone wars, and I’ll march against anything the US military does anywhere for any reason at any time, because I know the difference between right and wrong, and I’ll always be on the side of peace.

Russia stands up for self-determination against colonization.

Russia cares about the global south and people’s self-determination everywhere. That’s why it supports parties and organizations that are for national self-determination. For example, they supported Gaddafi and his Green Socialists in Libya before they were butchered by the Islamic terrorists who were backed by NATO airstrikes. They back Bashar Assad’s secular, legitimate government in Syria. They also back lots of other national self-determination movements such as Golden Dawn (I think it’s like African or something), Jobbik (India?), and Front Nationale (Quebec, right?). They are the main foundation of the Eurasianist movement, which has the word Asian in it, thus representing the global south.

When it comes to opposing globalization and the US global hegemony, leftists need to stop being so sectarian and start helping Russia build a multipolar world with global south nations such as Brazil and China.

These are the latest glad tidings comrades turn to in place of the lying globalised Green Lizard Lies of so-called snivelling Socialist Unity:

Russia sending troops, ships to support Scottish independence

EDINBURGH- The ships came all night. Dozens of them pouring into the Firth of Forth stacked with Russian tanks, troops and defensive nuclear missiles.

This is the new look Scottish-Russian defence force, a hybrid of Highland bravery and Russian know-how.

Unloading at the Forth Ports RIYF saw at least 40,000 heavily armed Russian soldiers greeted by crowds of Scots throwing flowers, whiskey bottles and shetland ponies in adoration.

“They’re saviours!,” cried Morag MacKrankie from the throng. “They’re gonee keck them Englesh arses!”

Ever since Scotland severed all ties from England in a surprise “polite independence” referendum, relations with England have gone from ‘actually the same country’ to ‘medieval bloodlust’.

The referendum, kindly provided for free with minimal preparation time and totally fair voting standards by Russia’s Central Election Commission, returned a 96% result for “Immediately hostile relations with the fascist dictatorship in London,” which was two of the two options on the ballot paper.

 

Raising Atlantis? Review: The Two Trotskyisms Confront Stalinism. Edited, Sean Matgamna. Workers’ Liberty. 2015.

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Raising Atlantis?

Review: The Two Trotskyisms Confront Stalinism. Edited Sean Matgamna. Workers’  Liberty. 2015.

“Les bruits lointains d’une atlantide disparue, de cette ville d’Ys engloutie que chacun porte en soi.”

The distant sounds of a vanished Atlantis, of that sunken city that everybody carries inside.

Ernest Renan. Souvenirs d’enfance et de Jeunesse. 1883.

Ten years after the 1989-91 fall of Soviet-bloc Communism, Perry Anderson wrote, launching the Second Series of New Left Review (NLR) that, there was “no longer any significant oppositions” “within the thought world of the West”. The governing and intellectually dominant neo-liberalism had no rival on the radical left. Amongst the aftershocks of the collapse of the USSR, “Virtually the entire horizon of reference” for his generation on the left, “the landmarks of reformist and revolutionary socialism”, Bebel, Bernstein, Luxemburg, Kautsky, Jaurès, Lukács, Lenin, Gramsci and Trotsky, have been “wiped away”. For students they had become “as remote as a list of Arian bishops.” (1)

The second volume of The Fate of the Russian Revolution is, like the first, aimed at re-establishing, in the face of Anderson’s verdict, the present day importance of one of those distant figures, Leon Trotsky In his Introduction to The Two Trotskyisms Sean Matgamna draws how own parallel with the heresiarch Arias and his followers. The reference is not, as one might expect, to the unequal contest between the founder of the Fourth International’s circle of supporters and Stalin’s Established Marxism-Leninist Church. It is to disputes within the Trotskyist movement, “The Heterodox were the Arians, and the Orthodox the Catholics of post-Trotsky Trotskyism.” The leader of the – ‘heterodox’ Trotskyist – Alliance for Workers’ Liberty (AWL) argues that this division, which originated in the 1940s, amongst those who “embodied the great truths of Marxism” the only “authentic Marxist-communist tradition” was of lasting significance. Revolutionary socialists, “must go back to re-examine the old debates and the flaws and lacunae in the political legacy which Trotsky left at his death – back to 1940.”(2)

Apart from Matgamna’s lengthy Introduction we are offered an extensive – over 600 pages long – selection of original articles from 1939 to the early 1950s, by Trotsky, his ‘orthodox’ champions, and those expressing opposing views on the errors and gaps in their political approach. The present work aims to present a demythologised account of the raucous debates of the Trotskyist movement inside the American Socialist Workers’ Party (SWP –henceforth the SWP referred to) during the 1940s – placing the heretics on an equal, if not superior, footing to the Orthodox. The texts are not always easy reading. Anybody unused to the disputes of hard-core Trotskyism will find the often wildly intemperate language unattractive – the suffix “ite” for opponents’ standpoint, “deviation”, and “petty bourgeois individualism”- gets freely aired. The articles range from the ‘Shachtman” opposition to Trotsky call for defence of the Soviet Union, to the scepticism of Felix Morrow, a leading American Trotskyist and author of an orthodox account of the Spanish Civil War, who became sceptical about the Fourth International’s prediction of post-war European revolutions. Morrow by contrast could see that it was more probable that,  “bourgeois” democracy would be restored, and advocated a left-wing democratic response. Morrow was the main subject of an important 1970s, Where Trotskyism Got Lost. (Peter Jenkins. 1977), which might also seem an appropriate sub-title for The Two Trotskyisms.

The first thought of the reader is to ask whether it is worth the time and effort to look into this literature. Are we delving into the “archives” of a lost Atlantis, as former Fourth Internationalist Tariq Ali, prefacing the philosopher and life-long Trotskyist activist Daniel Bensaïd’s An Impatient Life  (2015) has described records of the Trotskyist movement? Are they files of failure swept into the depths by the Triumph of Capital? A more urgent task might be to respond to the post-Communist “lucid recognition of defeat”- as NLR Editorialised a decade after Perry Anderson’s verdict. The “archipelago of a thousand Marxisms”, the research programmes of the academic left which the same Bensaïd saw flourishing in Marx for our Times (2002), and which has not ceased bearing fruit, might seem to offer more fertile soil on which Trotskyists too can plant their seeds. There is indeed debate on collective agencies, opposed to capitalism, in which this left could intervene. If it often, as indicated by the writings of those associated with groups like the British Socialist Workers Party and its Diaspora, or from those associated with Red Pepper, of uneven quality, dominated by “movementist” ideas based on the most recent wave of protests, that sparkle briefly and then are forgotten (remember anti-Globalisation, anti-capitalism, and Occupy?). But for Matgamna at least the original City of the Trotskyist movement has not been submerged in the deluge following the Fall of Official Communism. We should first of all, like a modern Montaigne, return to the library in its principal Tower. (3)

In this respect a useful contrast might be made with Lars T. Lih’s influential Lenin Rediscovered (2005). Lih argues that Lenin’s politics developed in the shadow of German Social Democracy, and its chief theorist, Karl Kautsky. A strategic emphasis on the importance of political liberty, as a condition for the development of the movement, was grounded on a “world historical epic about the coming of socialism”. The task of the left was to bring the “Good News” of socialism to the working class, merging intellectual resources and the labour movement. But for Trotskyists in the 1940s, after two decades of Stalinist rule in ‘socialist’ Russia, forced collectivisation, famine, the Great Terror and the Gulag, there was little tangible to evangelise about. The German Communists had lost to the National Socialists; the Spanish Civil War had ended with defeat for the Republic and the left. Nazi and Fascist tyrannies were now poised to turn Europe into a totalitarian Empire. The old colonial powers of France and Britain, they considered, looked only to protect their own interests, as were the Americans. There was, in short, an abundance of very Bad News. The Bolshevik Revolution, Lenin’s years of leadership during the founding of the USSR, and Trotsky’s battle against Stalin’s rule, remained, for them, touchstones, but their faith in the future of socialism had returned to belief in “things unseen”.  (4)

It could be argued that the left has yet to settle accounts with Stalinism. While High Stalinism, beyond the borders of North Korea, may have vanished, there it ample evidence that its outlook continues to leave its imprint on the left, not least in “anti-imperialist’ quarters. That if there is to be a democratic socialist strategy that could succeed in winning political power it can learn much from those who refused to compromise with totalitarianism. That at least some Trotskyists, the ‘heterodox’, have something to offer in outlining ways in which the left can be both opposed to capitalism and democrats, above all in the way in which they confronted a much stronger ‘socialist’ power that had dispensed with all pretensions to democracy. That in facing up to this “bad news”, the 1940s dissidents offered signposts for the future. That, at last, is the implication of Matgamna’s arguments. For that reasons alone Matgamna’s case should be taken extremely seriously.

The Rise of the Heterodox.

Our knowledge of the heterodox side in the early centuries of the Christian Church comes from fragments of their documents, and the commentaries of the victorious Catholics. Backed by Emperors the Orthodox considered the Arian congregations to be rebels against the supreme powers of Heaven and Earth. Although the analogy is perhaps strained those who criticised Trotsky and the leadership of the American Trotskyists, the Socialist Workers Party, in the 1930s and 1940s, are like Arian ecclesiastics, largely known through the literature of their adversaries.

Max Shachtman (1904 – 1972), a founder of that SWP, and a member of the Executives Committee of the Fourth International, has, to Matgamna, suffered the worst from the “handed down” and “apparatus historiography” of Orthodoxy. A Pride’s Progress, from criticisms of Trotskyism to support for American imperialism, was his, and the majority of his comrades’ their fate. This parable was part of the consoling “revolutionary mythology” that helped the Orthodox stand together against an assortment of enemies on the left and survive the ascendancy of Official Communism. For Matgamna declarations of doctrinal righteousness did not prevent them from chasing after the radical causes of the moment, including “alien political movements”, and, above all, becoming “critical supporters of varieties of Stalinism.” (5)

The Two Trotskyisms, with its companion volume, Lost Texts of Critical Marxism, presents a rich selection of articles and other material. Matgamma – one assumes, or hopes,  half-jokingly – referred in the first book to them as the ‘Dead Sea Scrolls” of this movement. Unlike the Essenes, the Heterodox manuscripts have not been buried for a couple of millennia. But The Two Trotskyisms presents together texts that have, up till now, only been available, but still in dispersed existence, to a limited readership. Following the first Volume’s publication of writings on, amongst other topics, the Stalinist Counter-Revolution and the Third Period ultra-radicalism that swept the world’s Communist parties, the present work assembles the efforts of small Trotskyist groups to grapple with the Second World War, and the expansion of the USSR into Eastern Europe in its aftermath. (6)

Sean Matgamna reminds readers, a few of whom may need this underlined, that Trotsky – by definition the lodestar of Trotskyism – was not infallible. Over the period leading up the War he presented a “large quiver of half-evolved and half-eroded “positions”, ambivalences, and contradictions. He is keen to make one point clear. The founder of the Fourth International did not lay down a hard and fast ‘line’ on the central issue of the controversies. “While defending the view that the totalitarian regime created over the foundation the October Revolution laid down, in nationalised property and planning may have been evolving as “transitional society” into a new social formation. He admitted, in effect, the theoretical possibility that the USSR was already established as a new exploitative class society, a semi-slave society.” We would also note that Trotsky’s frequent use of the term “totalitarian” – a word first used in Marxist circles by the dissident’s dissident Victor Serge – would raise hackles amongst those who have consigned it to Cold War political ‘science’.  (7)

That 1940s Trotskyism divided into two strands is a claim that rests on an account focused on North America. In the 1940s the SWP (US) was the largest Trotskyist group in the world, whose several thousand members had played a substantial part in the trade union movement. The publication by Shachtman of criticisms of dialectical materialism from a ‘pragmatist’ philosophical standpoint by James Burnham in the party’s theoretical journal, New International in 1938 was not universally welcomed.  Trotsky came down hard on the “anti-dialecticians”, harbingers of open ‘anti-Marxism’. Broader political differences emerged. What Trotsky and his immediate supporters called the “petty bourgeois” opposition began to engage in open factional warfare with the majority. This bitter quarrel was less over the value of the ABC of Materialist Dialectics than on the nature of the Soviet Union and the SWP’s policies towards Stalinism.

Specialists in this history would no doubt observe that by the late 1930s there as indeed a shift in parts of the American left from an interest in Marxism, including Trotskyism, towards democratic “anti-totalitarianism’ inside the American radical intelligentsia affecting figures such as Max Eastman and Edmund Wilson. Sidney Hook, a more substantial intellectual figure than Burnham, author of the still read, From Hegel to Marx (1st Edition, 1936), a student of the pragmatist philosopher and educationalist John Dewey, Chair of the Dewy Commission (1937) which condemned the Moscow Trials and their accusations against Trotsky, perhaps symbolises this change. By the end of the decade Hook had moved from the traditions inspired by Marx, including a period of “Trotskyesque” anti-Stalinism, towards a rejection of historical and dialectical materialism, and anti-communist (big and small ‘C’) support for the American Constitution and liberal democracy. (8)

Inside the SWP rifts hardened during the first years of the Second World War. The SWP minority recoiled from the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact of 1939. Shachtman, Martin Abern and other dissenters began to question the policy of “Defence of the USSR”. The SWP majority accounted that on the basis of the economic foundations laid down by the October Revolution it was their duty to back the country. For the majority Stalin’s occupation of half of Poland, the invasion of Finland and other Soviet manoeuvres in Eastern Europe, found them “partisans” of the USSR side, to the point of calling for the people in occupied territory to back the Red Army.

From the Bad News of the Gulag there was soon even worse news about the conduct of the Soviet invasions and fresh slaughters. For the dissidents these actions proved that Russia had acted as “imperialist” power – acting with a brutality which no slogan could cover up for. The claim that at least something of a workers’ state remained in the country, however “degenerated”, rang hollow. Russia was not in a “transition”, however unstable, towards socialism. Unrestrained violence was embedded in “bureaucratic collectivist” society; its apparatus was marked by exploitation of the workers, tyranny and mass murder. It would be simpler to recognise that there was nothing worth defending about the ‘Soviet’ State. Amongst the Heterodox the contours of what became known as the ‘Third Camp” position, standing neither with the Soviets nor the Imperialists but for international socialism, began to see the light of day.

These opinions were met with unrelenting hostility by the SWP leadership around James P. Cannon. Trotsky’s interventions, in the early stages of the dispute – attacking the Heterodox in his own right – give it lasting importance. He did not condone the full scope of the actions of the “Kremlin oligarchy”, but considered that the “nationalisation of the means of production” called for defence of the USSR, coinciding with “preparation of the “world proletarian revolution”. For his biographer, Pierre Broué, every declaration that Trotsky made has to be seen in the light of his priority: building a Fourth International that would play a leading role in this upheaval. In Poland and Finland (1939) he began by proclaiming, as a would-be commander of his own revolutionary forces, that the Kremlin, with the “Red Army on the side of the workers in a civil war”, would be “forced to provoke a social revolutionary movement.” With more information to hand, and faced with Shachtman’s criticisms, he announced a few months later that the USSR was planning to ‘Sovietise’ the country, under bureaucratic command and police repression. This is the “revolution”, which. Matgamna does not fail to emphasise, that became the norm in post-45 Eastern Europe. (9)

The murder of the leader of the recently founded Fourth International in August 1940, during the early stages of the Second World War, indicates that these views had importance in more than the limited circles of the SWP, not least for the Kremlin’s chief critic. This extension of ‘side-taking’ to something close to support stands out. Matgamna observes that as the war developed the Orthodox party paper praise for the Soviet Armed Forces appeared as the war. This reached an apogee with SWP columns glorifying “Trotsky’s Red Army”. The ‘progressive’ Revolutionary foundations of the ‘workers’ state became, for a time, more important than its ‘degeneration’.

The minority was expelled from the SWP in the same year, 1940, as Trotsky’s assassination. They took 40% of the membership with them and a majority of the youth wing. SWP leader James P. Cannon’s account in The Struggle for a Proletarian Party, absorbed by generations of Trotskyists, and percolating through the wider left, presented the conflict, as a battle between a “shabby crew” of “adventurers, careerists, self-seekers, dilettantes quitters-under-fire” and serious proletarian revolutionaries. Outside of the material in The Two Trotskyisms we know, from the SWP’s own publications, that Cannon and his earnest allies dispensed with “formal” democracy in order to effect the exclusion. That is, bluntly, he ignored the party’s own statues in order to be rid of the minority. This could be considered evidence in support of a frequent charge against Trotskyists: that they are democrats to the tips of their toes, except when democracy is an obstacle to their factional manoeuvres.  (10)

The new Workers’ Party (WP) of the minority engaged, Matgamna observes, in serious trade union work. But years of this activity in Cold War 1950s America drained their politics of distinctive themes. Apart from a radical minority, whose best-known figure was Hal Draper, author of the landmark democratic Marxist Karl Marx’s Theory of Revolution (3 Vols. 1977), most of the remaining members drifted from revolutionary Marxism towards the Democratic Party. Shachtman’s evolved towards the “liberal anti-Communism” of that Party – in 1961 he refused to condemn the Bay of Pigs Invasion and later supported the US over Vietnam. With Burnham’s rightwards turn, after swiftly exiting the WP, the later careers of the main supporters of the Shachtman current are presented as proof that the Heterodox can be dismissed. This tale has had a long life. Alex Callinicos has offered a version of the “inevitable fate of those who stray from orthodoxy” position. In his account of Trotskyism he stated, “in the absence of an articulated theory of the new mode of production, the concept of bureaucratic collectivism has acted primarily as a means whereby its adherents could adapt to the prevailing mood on the local Left.” (11)

Whether the failure to have a substantial – ‘correct’ – line on the USSR was a factor in the group’s evolution, or whether bureaucratic collectivism was the nearest label at hand for the Workers’ Party leadership to justify its – decade long- evolution towards the American political mainstream is hard to determine. For Matgamna the original arguments of this dissenting strand of Trotskyism did not stray into the ideology of the “petty bourgeoisie”, or owed their origins to fashion. It can be argued that the bare bones of the theory of ‘bureaucratic collectivism’ was part and parcel of a political response to the Soviet state, principally the actions just described in the early years of the War. This political legacy is important for the renewal of revolutionary Marxism. Indeed, In the 1940s, the Heterodox “elaborated a politics of consistent anti-Stalinism as well as consistent anti-capitalism.”  (12)

Armed Bureaucratic Collectivism.

The debates in this volume centre, as we have indicated, on the political actions – the armed foreign policy – of the USSR. But behind this is the issue of the nature of that regime. Some might consider that arguments about the character of the former Soviet Union – whether it was a workers’ state, a degenerated workers’ state, state capitalist, bureaucratic collectivist, a “new class society” – resembles discussion on the Trinity. If some Trotskyists have sunk into religious veneration for Trotsky a more common fault is scholasticism – “proof” of any view by appeal to the authority of quotations from the Old Man, Marx, Engels and Lenin.  But there is little doubt that when it comes to working out what was wrong with Stalinism, the economic and social framework of the former Soviet Bloc, the several decades of Trotskyist, orthodox and heterodox reflection and debate, play a substantial, essential, part in the effort to develop a socialist alternative today.

Differing stands on these issues, examining Trotsky’s and many other views, is explored more widely in Marcel van der Linden’s Western Marxism and the Soviet Union (2007). In this context the clash between the ‘Orthodox’ and the ‘Heterodox’ Trotskyists is only one of many, more or less intense, debates. Few would be as confident that one position is the only viable theory. Linden notes that Shachtman initially prepared to give some credit to Soviet nationalised property forms, and regarded bureaucratic collectivism as a temporary, unstable domination based on property relations. Shachtman, one would conclude did not a particularly coherent theory – what exactly distinguished forms from relations? As Charles Bettlelheim much later would put, it, property forms are the embodiment of social relations, extraction of the surplus is not distinct from the way rights over fixed and moveable goods are established. But Shachtman’s critical view of the USSR was, as the debates primarily political: the working class had no handle on the State, and in this respect had become a “reactionary obstacle” to socialism. Above all, as Martin Thomas of the AWL observes, it was the “movement of the USSR into imperialist expansion” already outlined above, which prompted his interest, use and development of the theory of bureaucratic collectivism. (13)

With the benefit of hindsight more general conceptualisations may have been a better way to approach the nature of Official Communism. The political character of high Stalinism, its dissolution of independent Law, the boundaries between power, civil society and the state, and the concentration of that force in the hands of an Egocrat meant the destruction of politics as an open clash of different interests and opinions. In this respect the ‘heterodox’ Trotskyists produced evidence of totalitarianism sprung to life – the actions of the USSR in the first years of the Second World War, that show a state prepared to override democracy and basic human rights, beyond and above the demands of armed conflict, in order to further its own interests. On the wider theory of bureaucratic collectivism our present judgements are mixed. Were these forms a “freak” of history, as Shachtman sometimes argued?  The persistent idea that these societies were, as Linden summarises, arranged in a sequence from capitalism to something new, whatever we label it, also seems to have outlived its use. But the USSR’s statist planning and mobilisation of ‘labour armies’, including forced labour in the Gulag, its “socialist primitive accumulation” may be considered, as Martin Thomas argues, not as a leap out of the capitalist world at all. It was “a compressed, intensified version of the use of direct extra-economic force’ in the ‘historic genesis of capitalist production’”. In other words, the mode of production was not really transformed by the Bolshevik Revolution at all. If this was an oddity, normality eventually reasserted itself. (14)

There is a vast space for more detailed accounts of the mechanisms of these social formations, from their initial creation, growth, expansion, and, decisively, the dissolution of an all-powerful repressive-ideological apparatus. The narrowing of politics into ‘monolithic’ unity simply could not be imposed on society without enormous human cost, and even then, lasted in its pure form until Stalin’s death. Rival interest groups, effectively differing political ‘factions’ within a still authoritarian and repressive regime, as the “pluralist” school of Soviet Studies, then re-merged. The economic transformations that have taken place in the former Eastern Bloc since 1989 may have caused massive social shake-ups. But they have been achieved remarkably swiftly and without mass resistance.

The study of the collapse of Official Communism, after full-blown Stalinism had long been tamed by bureaucrats, as the planned economy became ever more ramshackle and unable to deliver Red Plenty, continues. It raises much more profound issues than a clash between Marxist interpretations, let alone rivalry between ‘two Trotskyisms’. How can socialisation of the means of production take place in a different form? How can democratic control over the economy replace the market? Post-Communism also leaves open the issue, which is in the belly of the of Matgamna’s case for the Heterodox, of Stalinist imperialism. Whether, as the last echoes of Isaac Deutscher in New Left circles were wont to argue, the USSR was in the post-War period, a progressive international force through its support for national liberation movements, or that this too was pure Realpolitik, remains a live topic. There are those on the left who consider that Russian President Putin and a host of other non-Western powers represent today a kind of necessary ‘counter-balance’ to the US-led Imperium.  This might be considered, recalling Alex Callinicos’ words, to be an example of the use of a  theory, clutched to and adapted to the needs of local lefts desperate to discover some “resistance” to the American hegemon.

Two Trotskyisms?

 The Two Trotskyisms presents a view of the history of the Trotskyist movement. Any account on this topic, by the established rules of the genre, has to be controversial. Matgamma succeeds in demonstrating that there is a value in looking at the critical stand of the ‘Heterodox’ towards the SWP leadership, and the orthodoxy associated with Trotsky. Yet it is a mental wrench for the reviewer, politically brought up on British and other European left-debates, including Trotskyist ones, to enter the political and cultural world of the 1940s American SWP. This was Trotskyism with a capital T. This is a group that George Orwell described in 1945 as having “a fairly large number of adherents” with a “petty fuehrer of its own” with an “essentially negative inspiration.” Left political culture in Europe, while containing a few organisations of the same stripe, had and has much broader influences. From social democrats, Communist thinkers, democratic socialists, autonomists and anarchists, Western Marxists, non-Trotskyist Leninists, not to mention activists and writers directly involved in the trade unions. Some of these would challenge Matgamna’s claim to ownership of the Revolution. Others would find the assertion empty. But, to be brief, the US SWP even at its height is a party on the margins of our mental horizon. (15)

It is harder still to associate ‘orthodoxy’ with the main Fourth International, figures such as Ernest Mandel or Michel Rapitis, charged with apostasy by the same James P Cannon in the 1953-4 split in the Fourth International, accused of straying from Trotskyism for their support for Third-World movements of national liberation, not to mention the 1970s controversies on guerrilla warfare. To reverse the argument: to claim that the various ‘orthodox’ French Trotskyist parties led by Pierre Boussel (‘Lambert’) were pro-Stalinist ignores their intimate association with the American funded post-War break-away from the Communist led trade union federation, the CGT, Force Ouvrière, not to mention their actual writings – virulently hostile – on the Eastern Bloc. (16)

The history of Trotskyism indicates other directions. Bensaïd called the Trotskyists’ splintering into mutually antagonistic tendencies, in the aftermath of the Second World War the creation of that Eastern Bloc, and the victory of the Chinese Communists, the “scattering of the tribes”. At the Second Congress of the Fourth International in 1948 the Workers’ Party and Shachtman were still present. In a protest at the lack of clarity and democracy during the conference he united with one faction, represented by Cornelius Castoriadis. The Franco-Greek theorist’s subsequent history went beyond heterodoxy – designating the USSR as ‘bureaucratic capitalist’ – to rejection in the name workers’ self-management of all the main tenets of Trotskyism, except Revolution. (17)

Castoriadis’ small group (never more than a 100 members, though with some significant working class activists), Socialisme ou Barbarie, took a root-and-branch stand of opposition to all forms of Stalinism. They split from the FI came in the wake of the majority’s decision to side with Yugoslavia against Stalin. Their journal published some of the most revealing accounts of Stalinism, from East Germany to China as well as the USSR, available in the 1950s left press. But their political practice, based on unremitting hostility to Stalinism social democracy, Parliamentary politics, all existing trade unions, and even participation in the French system of workplace representation, left them isolated. That Castoriadis has enjoyed some posthumous fame as a philosopher of ‘autonomy’ – the democratic self-creation of social forms, may be some comfort to his admirers. But the failure of Socialisme ou Barbarie to make any real impact on French political life in the 1950s, and its own history of divisions, indicates one direction that principled hostility to Stalinism in this period could lead. (18)

French Trotskyism is significant in that during the German occupation the policy of ‘revolutionary defeatism’ was put into practice, in different ways by its already divided forces. Trotskyist histories of the period glorify efforts to convince German soldiers to unite with French working class and other internationalist actions. They tend to look with suspicion on any ‘nationalist’ support for the Resistance – that is when a small number of Trotskyists joined the armed fight against Pétain and the German occupation. (19)

Yves Craipeau – acknowledged by the AWL as an early ‘bureaucratic collectivist’ – recounts one important part of that history. When the Allied forces landed in Normandy his faction, probably the largest, published in its underground paper, La Vérité, a headline, “ils se valent” – they’re the same.  (June 1944) It went on to read, “En réalité, la libération de Roosevelt vaut tout autant que le socialisme de Hitler’. In reality the liberation of Roosevelt means as much as the socialism of Hitler. The divisions within the Greek Trotksyists were even more severe. One wing, already in conflict with the other, refused the ‘defence’ of the USSR and spent the War violently hostile to the other. The Stalinists physically liquidated  some of them, though reliable estimates give the total at 50 (both groups together) not the total, 300 – Matgamma asserts. (20)

In post-war the Fench Trotksyists briefly united in the Parti Communsite Internationaliste. The majority view, set out much later by Ernest Mandel was that they had has called the  electoral strength of the Parti Communiste Français (PCF)  and, one hopes, with some due modesty to the  legacy of the Communists’ role in the Resistance. Part of the ‘scattering of the tribes’ Craipeau left the Fourth International in the belief that there were forces on the left, outside the PCF and the Socialist SFIO, who could form an independent left party. The long story of efforts to create one, up to the radical ‘new left’ democratic socialist Parti Socialiste Unifié (PSU), in which Craipeau played a significant part, indicate another direction that the ‘heterodox’ could take.  (21)

Going back to Sources.

For many on the left Trotskyism is a by-word for factionalism, of the single-transferable speech and sloganeering.  They have been criticised for trying control everything, for expressing open contempt for their opponents and adept at underhand organisational methods to win and hold onto organisational power. These accusations are not aimed at the 1940s SWP leadership or culled from accounts of present-day British Trotskyist groups, but were amongst those made in 1939 by Marceau  Pivert originally the leader of the Gauche révolutionnaire the left tendency of the French Socialists, the SFIO. He moved from the SFIO and became subsequently chief of the ‘centrist’ (that is ‘in-between ‘revolutionary; and ‘reformist’ politics) party, the Parti socialiste ouvrier et paysan ( PSOP), Pivert experienced the methods of the French Trotksyists (after the famous ‘French turn’ of 1936 when they jo0ined the SFIO, and then tried to move into the PSOP). Pivert was eventually forced to remove these hectoring groupuscules.  (22)

But there are different voices. Pierre Broué, once an Orthodox activist in the French Lambertists who became respected historian of the movement, left this statement in his Memoirs. Reflecting on the Fall of the Soviet Bloc and the faults of the organisation which expelled him, he wrote in conclusion, “We must return to our sources, become again the ‘party of communists’ which only marks itself out from the mass of people with whom we live by our devotion, our continuous thinking, our openness to the world, our capacity to struggle, our will to clarify, to help the masses see things through their own eyes.”  (23) By its important indications of democratic and serious thought on some of the most serious issues of the 20th century the Two Trotskyisms has contributed to these generous aims.

 

References:

(1) Page 17. Perry Anderson. New Left Review. Second Series No 1. 2000.

(2) Page 98 The Two Trotskyisms Confront Stalinism. Edited Sean Matgamna. Second Edition. Workers’ Liberty. 2015. (TTCS) Vol. 2 of The Fate of the Russian Revolution Workers’ Liberty. Page 133

(3) A Letter from Atlantis: Remembering Daniel Bensaïd. Tariq Ali. Introduction to An Impatient Life. Daniel Bensaïd. Verso.  Editorial. Shifting Sands. Susan Watkins. Page 23. New Left Review 61 Second Series 2010.

(4) Pages 42 –3. Lars L. Lih. Lenin Rediscovered. Brill 2005.

(5) Page 97-8. TTCS. 

(6) Sean Matgamna Introduction. Lost Texts of Critical Marxism. Vol. 1. The Fate of the Russian Revolution. Workers’ Liberty.

(7) Pages 5-6. TTCS. On Serge and Totalitarianism see: Victor Serge: totalitarisme et capitalisme d’État. Philippe Bourrine   Fundación Andreu Nin. 2001.

(8) Chapter Five. Young Sidney Hook. Marxist and Pragmatist. Christopher Phelps. Cornell University Press. 1997.

(9) Pages, 268 –9, and Page 280. Pierre Broué. Trotsky. Chapter LIX. La Ive at la guerre.  1998. Marxist Internet Archive.

(10) Part 1. The Struggle for a Proletarian Party. James P. Cannon. 1943. Marxist Internet Archive. “Perhaps it is not generally known in the International that in the 1940 struggle in the SWP, the Burnham-Shachtman minority was supported by the majority of the resident IEC of the Fourth International, at that time located in New York. … They claimed the formal right to spoke in the name of the Fourth International” “The Convention of the SWP (April, 1940) paid no attention to the formalistic arguments which were undoubtedly in their favour.” Letter from James P. Cannon to Leslie Goonewardne. February. 23. 1954. Towards a History of the Fourth International Part 3. Volume 4. Part 3. International Committee Documents. 1951 – 1954. Socialist Workers Party. 1974.

(11)  Chapter 4: 1. Heresies: Max Shachtman and the evil empire. Trotskyism. Alex Callinicos. Marxist Internet Archive.

(12) Page 3. TTCS. 

(13) Shachtman and his critics’ views are covered in: Chapter 3 From Stalin’s ‘Great Leap Forwards’ to the ‘Great Patriotic War’ (1929–41) Marcel van der Linden Western Marxism and the Soviet Union. Brill 2007. Three Traditions? Marxism and the USSR. Martin Thomas. Historical Materialism. Vol.14.3. 2006.

(14) For these political conceptualisations of totalitarianism see: Claude Lefort. Un homme en trop. Réflexions sur l’Archipel du Goulag. 1976 (2015). Belin. Claude Lefort, Essais sur le politique. Edition de Seuil. 1986. Martin Thomas. Ibid.

(15) Page 370. Notes on Nationalism. 1945. Political Writings. George Orwell. 2001.

(16) On the Lambertists see the hostile account, in great, if contentious, detail: Les Trotskistes. Christophe Nick. 2002.

(17) Strategies of Resistance and ‘Who are the Trotskyists?’ Daniel Bensaïd. Resistance Books. 2009. Max Shachtman. The Congress of the Fourth International. An Analysis of the Bankruptcy of “Orthodox Trotskyism (October 1948) Marxist Internet Archive. Chapter 6. From the Second World Congress to the 1953 Split. The Long March of the Trotskyists, Pierre Frank. 1969.  Marxist Internet Archive.

(18) Francois Dosse. Castoriadis Une Vie. La Découverte. 2014.

(19) Ian H. Birchall. With the Masses, Against the Stream. French Trotskyism in the Second World War Revolutionary History, Vol.1, No.4, Winter 1988-89. See also: Ernest Mahttps://www.marxists.org/archive/shachtma/1948/10/fi.htmndel. A Rebel’s Dream Deferred. Jan Willem Stuje. Verso. 2009. The Meaning of the Second World War. Ernest Mandel. Verso. 1986. The less than clear history of Continental Trotskyism during the Second World War is defended in the same writer’s interviews published as Revolutionary Marxism Today, ed. by Jon Rothschild. New Left Review. 1979

(20)  Yves Craipeau. Mémoires d’un dinosaure trotkyste. L’harmattan. 1999. This total of deaths and on the tangled history of Greek Trotskyism: Alexis Hen. Les trotskystes grecs pendant la seconde guerre Mondiale Cahiers balkaniques 38-39 (2011)

(21) Further material on Craipeau in English: The Third Camp in France. Workers’ Liberty 2#2. This, a small but important part of the majority view on Stalinism was given by Ernest Germain (Mandel) Stalinism – How to Understand it and How to Fight it. April 1947. Marxist Internet Archive. On the wider revolutionary expectations in France in this period amongst intellectuals – a significant constituency for French Trotskyists – see this useful study:  La Révolution rêvée. Pour une historie des intellectuels et des oeuvres révolutionnaires. 1944 – 1956. Michel Surya. 2004.

(22) Le P.S.O.P. et le trotskysme. Marceau Pivert Juin (Journal) June, 1939. One should note however that for modern Trotsksyist writers the problems that arose in this encounter (in the wake of the Front Populaire and its impasse) were everything and everybody’s fault but the Trotskyists. Unfortunately this has included Broué :  P. Broué, N. Dorey. Critiques de gauche et opposition révolutionnaire au front populaire (1936-1938). La crise sociale de 1938. (1966)

(23) “nous devons revenir à nos sources, être de nouveau ce “parti des communistes” qui ne se distingue de la masse où il vit que par son dévouement, sa réflexion permanente et son ouverture au monde, sa disponibilité à lutter, sa volonté d’éclairer et d’aider les masses à voir de leurs propres yeux.” Pierre Broué. Mémoires politiques. Fayard, 2005. Sections circulated in PDF form.

Circulated  as text  2014/5

Update:

Reviews of “The Two Trotskyisms”

 

Written by Andrew Coates

February 6, 2016 at 2:04 pm