This outlines the struggle within Momentum very well, it is well worth a read for that.
But then, having played the blame squarely on Lansman and Corbyn it draws the ridiculous conclusion that the opposition should not be, critically and without illusions, supported against them here because they are equally as bad (they are not) and everyone should leave the Labour party and join the SEP (they will not). On that logic it would be better if Lansman managed to snuff out democracy entirety in Momentum and defeat his opponents who want to establish democratic structures because then they would clearly see the SEP was right all along and fighting inside the Labour party was a waste of time and energy.
Posts Tagged ‘Trotsky’
Behind the faction fight in the UK’s pro-Corbyn Momentum movement, as Exposed by the World Socialist Web Site.
Trotskyism (US only)
Behind the faction fight in the UK’s pro-Corbyn Momentum movement
By Chris Marsden
The headlines prompted by the December 3 National Committee of Momentum were uniform in character. The pro-Jeremy Corbyn pressure group, which had generally been portrayed as a threat to Labour’s electoral prospects, made up of “wreckers” who want to purge the party’s “sensible” right wing, was rebranded as a precious political jewel to be protected from a “Trotskyist” takeover.
The entire presentation is a tissue of lies.
The conflict within Momentum is between a bureaucratic cabal at the core of Corbyn’s leadership team, many of whom are indeed Stalinists, and representatives of various pseudo-left groups who are bitterly opposed to Trotskyism and who have no intention of breaking with either Corbyn or the Labour Party.
The moves now being made within Momentum to close off all genuine debate and insist on absolute loyalty to Labour should spur those workers and youth who looked to it to provide a socialist alternative to carefully study the SEP statement.
The Dictator, the Revolution, the Machine. A Political Account of Joseph Stalin Tony McKenna. A Review.
The Dictator, the Revolution, the Machine. A Political Account of Joseph Stalin Tony McKenna. Sussex Academic Press.
“I recently read an interview featuring a cultural commentator of the left. Alongside the interview a photo appeared of this individual against a backdrop which featured an image of Joseph Stalin.” In the Preface to The Dictator the Revolution, the Machine, Tony McKenna observes in this, not uncommon, gesture, a “certain wry sympathy for Stalin’s political endeavours.” The Chair of no less than the Stop the War Coalition, Andrew Murray, has expressed such empathy on many occasions. For these people Stalin’s title of Generalissimo and Hero of the Soviet Union, awarded in June 1945, was due recognition for a leader prepared to “get his hands dirty” in defence of the USSR. This judgement, McKenna states, with appropriate severity, “does a great disservice to the millions Stalin had murdered” (Page xi).
This is a study that attempts to explain the “objective trajectory of Stalinism” in Marxist terms, and the course of a life that is full of “terrible darkness”. Its premise is that the original form of “the Soviet democracy remains the first form of democracy in human history which was not premised on some manner of class exploitation.”(Page 169) This “…fused the economic organs of society, the factories and the workplace with a political decision-making process where power flowed from the bottom-up. (Page vii) That it “abolished the capital-labour relation.” (Page 170) A bold effort, “drowned in blood”. And yet, “Most of all I wanted to challenge the assumption that Stalinist totalitarianism was the automatic and inevitable result of a revolution which mobilised the poorest in society”. (Page x)
McKenna considers, then, that “Stalinism represented the negation of the proletarian revolution”. Lenin stood for the emancipation of the working class “to be an act by the workers themselves” (Page 42) Nothing could be more clearly opposed to Stalin’s “overwhelming distrust – not only for the masses, but for the process of revolution itself” (Page 16) For those who recount the political conflicts of the early Soviet Union as a clash between a growing bureaucracy, and those, siding with Lenin who railed against administrative power and privilege, this is a decisive difference. Leninism was popular creative power; Stalinism was the rules and regulations, backed by repression, of the office.
This guiding contrast in The Dictator the Revolution, the Machine is not without problems. There is a different view, expressed by Rosa Luxemburg, that this was not, in practice, how Lenin’s ideology worked. To her Lenin had “a dangerous rigidity in argumentation, certain scholasticism in his political ideas, and a tendency to ignore the living embodiment of the masses, or even to coerce it into accepting preconceived tactical plans.”(1) There is the claim that, under Lenin’s aegis, there were “always various tendencies and groups within the Party, which was considered natural and normal.”(2) There is another picture of less than tolerant Bolshevik, as revealed in his years of exile of “ceaseless polemics with all those he considered philistines, pedants, whiners, sceptics, defeatists. (3) Or, more strongly that when with his hands on the levers of power these were not just arguments, “Lenin, as we have seen time and time again, could not assimilate opposition. It could only be overcome and destroyed. In place of complete creative freedom Lenin turned to a new discourse based on a completely opposite theme – iron proletarian discipline.”(4)
A recent biography of Stalin puts this more sharply, “assertions of a Bolshevik collective leadership predating Stalin’s ring hollow. Lenin’s secretariat took on an essentially limitless range of issues, setting a precedent, and no one did more than Lenin to establish a living example of one-man rule at the top. (When the other ‘collective leaders; disagreed with Lenin he threatened to expel them or, failing that, to quit the party and form a new one.” (5) One may contest this judgement. Others talk of ‘Stalin’s team’, a tightly bound group at the top- broadening some of McKenna’s focus on the General Secretary. In either case the legacy, however reshaped in new hands, from Lenin’s rule cannot be ignored. (6)
McKenna’s book does not however shirk from describing the mechanisms used to enforce this “iron discipline” during, and after, the Civil War. This was, above all, the work of the secret police, the Cheka. He defends, “out of military necessity”, “mass compulsion” “terror” was an absolute requirement in a context where a class or nation state is in the process of fighting for existence goes more or less without saying” (Page 29) But the “generalisation of terror to a social class carte blanche – and specifically the petty bourgeoisie…. the peasantry” “the bureaucracy was beginning to weave their theoretical rationale for its terrorisation for the very group whose surplus produce was integral to its survival..(Ibid) It used “indiscriminate force” against peasant or proletarians who “bridled against the increasingly coercive power and needs of the bureaucracy itself.” (Ibid)
According to Alexander Solzhenitsyn the Gulag Archipelago could not have built without the early sanction of these measures of compulsion. “In the first months of the October Revolution Lenin was already demanding decisive draconian measures to tighten up discipline” In December 1917, he suggested for consideration, confiscation of all property.. confinement in prison, dispatch to the front and forced labour for all who disobey the existing law.” (6) During the period of War Communism, Trotsky advocated ever tighter punishments, and the militarisation of labour (Terrorism and Communism: A Reply to Karl Kautsky 1920) He asserted that the dictatorship of the proletariat was able to make use of organized state power by the working class to crush its opponents and to pave the way for social transformation.
If every Cook could run the State, as envisaged in the State and Revolution, those who broke the rules risked more than admonishing in an acidic polemical article. The dissolution of the Constituent Assembly was the end of ‘formal’ democracy and its replacement by the ‘superior’ form of workplace rule. As experience rapidly showed, adversaries of ‘Soviet power’ from the right, the dissident left, and not all because of the violent opposition of the left Social Revolutionaries (Uprising 1918. Exclusion: Fifth Soviet Congress, 1918), the right and then the left Mensheviks and Anarchists, particularly those with suspect “class origins” (which began to be treated as a hereditary taint) were progressively excluded from the ‘democracy’ of the Soviets. The system was designed to be the opposite of ‘agonistic’ politics where open clashes between opposed views would be freely expressed.
Lenin’s Last Struggle.
Was Stalin’s hold on these reins of power inevitable? During Lenin’s later lifetime and following his death, disputes between bureaucrats – that is state employees – Trotsky, Bukharin, Zinoviev, and Stalin, to cite some well-known names, continued. But already the shrinking of political freedom had caught up with the Party itself, as factions had been banned, and all dissent was suspect. There seemed to be an inevitability about further moves towards enforced unity – “discipline” – around One line One leader, on every single issue, economic, cultural, political, and ideological. Yet Moshe Lewin’s Lenin’s Last Struggle (1975) underlines the view that his Testament explicitly called for Stalin’s removal from office. Lewin claimed, “the use of constraint – let alone terror – is ostensibly excluded in establishing the foundations of a new society”. (8) This ‘tolerance’, at best putting up with people, was, as we seen, very limited. As McKenna narrates, not only was the Testament suppressed, and Stalin’s office confirmed, not to be, but also the range of forces allied with him, and the hesitations of his opponents, prevented even the document being discussed.
The Dictator the Revolution, the Machine is a passionate intervention into debates on these issues. The description of the full “shadow of totalitarianism”, Stalin’s 1930s Great Terror, and a thorough, searing, look at the Gulag, is outstanding. McKenna’s concluding hopes for a direct ‘utopian’ democracy that takes collective control of a socialised economy takes inspiration from the best side of the Soviet ideal. This review has argued that we cannot ignore, with Claude Lefort, and many others, the other side, the ‘temporary’ limitations on democratic expression sketched above. They cannot be ignored. They turned out to be the permanent basis for a totalitarian regime, and whatever form of erratic command economy one cares to call it. Perhaps truly universal – unblemished – inspiration cannot be found in the early years of the Russian Revolution. The all-too-ready use of force to resolve political issues played some part in the emergence of Stalinism. The means, exile, imprisonment, forced labour and killing, by which the “Pouvoir soviétique se déliverent des enemies”, (how Soviet power got rid of its enemies) are not foreign to the emergence of Stalin’s system of rule, warped by his own personality though it may have been. (9) We should also ensure that this blood-drenched tyranny is never repeated.
- Page 85. The Letters of Rosa Luxemburg. Edited by George Adler, Peter Hudis and Annelies Laschitza. 2011.
- Page 385. Let History Judge. Roy Medvedev. Spokesman. 1971.
- Page 110. Lars T. Lih. Rekation Books. 2011.
- Page 212. Christopher Read. Routledge 2005.
- Page 419. Stalin. Paradoxes of Power. 1878 – 1928. Stephan Kotin. Allen Lane. 2014.
- On Stalin’s team. Sheila Fitzpatrick. Princeton University Press. 2015.Pages 19 – 10. The Gulag Archipelago. Vol.2. Colins/Fontana. 1976.
- Page 134. Lenin’s Last Struggle. 1975.Un homme en trop. Réflexions sur l’Archipel du Gulag. Claude Lefort. New Edition. 2015 (1976)
The Dictator, The Revolution, the Machine: a Political Account of Joseph Stalin.
Tony McKenna is a bona fide public intellectual who contributes to Marxist journals without having any connections to academia or to the disorganized left. This gives his writing a freshness both in terms of political insight and literary panache. I first encountered his work in a collection of articles titled “Art, Literature and Culture From a Marxist Perspective” that reflected a familiarity with culture high and low and an ability to put works such as “The Walking Dead” into a broader political and social context. Was the popular AMC zombie show a good preparation for “The Dictator, The Revolution, the Machine: a Political Account of Joseph Stalin”, his latest book forthcoming from Sussex press? I’d like to think so.
Although I think that McKenna would be capable of turning a Unix instruction manual into compelling prose, the dead tyrant has spurred him to reach a higher level—one that is in inverse proportion to the degraded subject matter. At 186 pages, his study is both an excellent introduction to Stalin and Stalinism as well as one that gives any veteran radical well-acquainted with Soviet history some food for thought on the quandaries facing the left today. Drawing upon fifty or so books, including a number that leftist veterans would likely not be familiar with such as leading Soviet military leader Gregory Zhukov’s memoir, McKenna synthesizes it all into a highly readable and often dramatic whole with his own unique voice. It is a model of historiography and one that might be read for no other reason except learning how to write well. (McKenna is an editor and an aspiring novelist.)
More via above link.
Stalinism and Trotskyism both back in vogue says Andrew Murray (Chair of the Stop the War Coalition).
Both Stalin and Trotsky Back in Vogue says Chair of Stop the War Coalition.
Stalinism and Trotskyism appear to be back in vogue. Their shrouds are being waved — entryism here, a purge there — to terrify bystanders to the struggle over the future of the Labour Party, writes Andrew Murray.
“This illustrates the extent to which “dead Russians,” using the term slightly loosely, still hold the imagery and lexicon of the international left in thrall nearly a century after the October revolution.”
Andrew Murray is, to repeat, Chair of the Stop the War Coalition and holds some other positions in the labour movement.
He continues on this site.
In a learned analysis of Trotsky’s uncompleted book Stalin (apparently now out in a definitive edition) Murray outlines within this context the background of the founder of the Fourth International’s final (uncompleted) book.
It was Trotsky’s last major literary endeavour and he was working on it when he was assassinated by an agent of Soviet security in 1940. It was a biography so unauthorised that it may be the only one in the history of the genre whose author was murdered by its subject while the book was still being prepared.
We should nevertheless get the low-down on the cash involved.
Trotsky had been paid $5,000 for the job by a US publisher who was accurately anticipating a sustained assault on the Soviet leader.
Murray outlines the new version of the text now published by Socialist Appeal
In a herculean labour of love, Alan Woods and Rob Sewell of the Socialist Appeal group — that vindicated element of the old Militant tendency which argued that the fight in the Labour Party was not over — have restored the book to something more like what Trotsky would have intended. (1)
Here are some choice quotes from Murray’s review,
There is more to Trotsky’s bile than Olympian Marxist analysis. His outrage at the fact that he, the great leader of the insurrection and the Red Army, should have come off second best to a man obviously inferior to him in every salient respect — orator, writer, reader of second and third languages and so on — permeates every page.
The USSR won the war and Stalin emerged stronger than ever, with socialism spreading to half of Europe and much of Asia, perhaps the most significant of the many circumstances which left Trotskyism without Trotsky stillborn as a major political movement.
Trotsky would have found all this quite incomprehensible but perhaps not as incomprehensible as his own political worsting by a nonentity from the provinces. Historians and some on the left will continue to dispute these questions ad infinitum.
But no, the Labour Party is not living through “Stalinism” versus “Trotskyism” reincarnated.
Time, perhaps, for a new political vocabulary.
I shall leave it to the comrades to discuss this review in more detail, including this claim against Trotsky, “his assertions about the number of Red Army officers suppressed in the purges are wide of the mark by significant magnitudes.”
Personally I much prefer Boris Souvarine’s Stalin:A Critical Survey of Bolshevism (Translated by C.L.R. James 1939. French edition 1935) (see also this « Staline » de Boris Souvarine). “Souvarine was a founding member of the French Communist Party and is noted for being the only non-Russian communist to have been a member of the Comintern for three years in succession. He famously authored the first biography of Joseph Stalin, published in 1935 as Staline, Aperçu Historique du Bolchévisme (Stalin, Historic Overview of Bolshevism) and kept close correspondence with Lenin and Trotsky until their deaths.”
According to the one-time Trotskyist Fred Zeller in Témoin du siècle while he visited the Marxist leader in Norway he informed Trotsky of Souvraine’s work.
Trotsky did not have a high opinion of it, noting that the book was even not unreservedly respectful of Lenin…..
Souveraine was, one observes today, critical of Trotsky, but rightly laid the emphasis on the monstrous crimes of Stalin and the immense social apparatus of repression and killing that was built from the 1920s onwards.
(1) More here: In these videos, Alan Woods and Rob Sewell discuss Leon Trotsky’s great unfinished work, Stalin, which is being published this year by Wellred Books. Alan Woods discusses the political and theoretical analysis provided by Trotsky, who attempts to explain some of the most decisive events of the 20th century, not just in terms of epoch-making economic and social transformations, but in the individual psychology of those who appear as protagonists in a great historical drama. Meanwhile, Rob Sewell provides the story behind the publication of this magnum opus – the most extensive edition of the book ever released, completed from the original archive material.
Back to the Old Times for Socialist Party in England and Wales.
This has already been described as the bitterest piece of sectarianism by a left group since the days of News Line.
Momentum Youth and Students: Witch hunts won’t take movement forward
After speaking and making clear that we were members of the Socialist Party, the Labour Party and Momentum, the room was whipped up by multiple speakers calling for our expulsion.
In attendance were two self-proclaimed Trotskyist groups – Socialist Appeal and the Alliance for Workers Liberty (AWL). Both groups have recently been targeted by the Labour Party and have received suspensions and expulsions. However neither of them spoke out against the same witch hunt against the Socialist Party in Momentum.
In fact, one member of the AWL proclaimed that he “was not and has never been a member of the Socialist Party” and that there was no place for the Socialist Party in Momentum.
These groups, by their silence, have sided with the right-wing compromisers in Momentum and are complicit in the witch hunt. They offered no strategy or programme for fighting the civil war in the Labour Party, as the Blairites will continue to fight to keep it a party which acts in the interests of the 1%.
The complete lack of democracy in Momentum was shown when Jon Lansman personally voided my Momentum membership via a text to Momentum’s office.
He said I was guilty of belonging to a party hostile to the Labour Party. The Socialist Party isn’t hostile to Jeremy Corbyn and those that have joined Labour to fight for his policies. We are, however, hostile to Blairite MPs calling for the bombing of Syria, and local councillors implementing Tory cuts.
Another Socialist Party member refused to give his name so Lansman took his photo! Are we to see ‘wanted posters’ of known Socialist Party members at local Momentum meetings?
The political outlook of the Momentum leadership was summed up by a contribution that said: “The main way to support Jeremy Corbyn is to vote Labour.” Momentum, by uncritically canvassing for Blairites, has given no warning to the role those such as London Mayor Sadiq Khan will play in attacks on Corbyn’s leadership.
“You must admit that the sheer cheek of saying “”We need to kick out the Blairites at all levels of the Labour Party and campaign for mandatory re-selection.” while whingeing about people wanting to kick them out takes some beating.”
This is worth reading (rest on site).
We have come to the conclusion that the very nature of the undemocratic structures of the Socialist Party and CWI make it impossible to change or reform it in any meaningful manner. There has been no contested election for leadership in living memory. Along the way, we have won support from current and ex-members of the CWI. However, many of those current members have subsequently left the CWI (although not Marxist World) because of the bureaucratic barriers and methods used against them. The lack of internal democracy makes the task of putting forward our ideas without distortion, bureaucratic manoeuvres and, in some cases, outright harassment, virtually impossible. Unlike the Socialist Party EC, we have no intention of repudiating the fundamentals of Marxism. We have no choice but to leave the Socialist Party/CWI.
We split from the Socialist Party/CWI partly with regret because of the history of “Trotskyism” and the seemingly endless history of splits and splits of splits. For example, in recent years the SWP has had two splits and Workers Power three. In many ways these are manifestations of the crisis within so-called Marxism following the 2007/8 economic crisis and the perspectives and methods of these organisations. Yet all these splits have either recreated the same bureaucratic centralist structures as their parent organisation, or threw out the baby with the bath water and abandoned the notion of an independent revolutionary party. Either way the effect on the rest of the Left has been demoralisation, disgust and distrust towards revolutionary Marxism.
As somebody who has very publicly argued against working in a common political project in the Labour Party with the Socialist Party, at a London meeting of Labour Briefing and amongst my comrades in Chartist, there are two simple reasons why I do not want to have anything to do with them in these kind of forums: (1) They keep trying to create a mini-‘Labour movement’ based around their sect. They stand candidates against Labour – still – and are now engaged in an Anti-Labour and anti-TUC (not to mention all the major unions) campaign on Europe. (2) They are opposed to us on fundamental issues, as shown very clearly by their anti-EU position. As for the comment, “two self-proclaimed Trotskyist groups” both of the organisations cited (AWL and SA) they have considerably more claim to Trotskyism than the bizarre nationalists of the SP.
I certainly do not want to be in close political work with a group that comes out with the kind of stuff: Trade Unionists Against the EU’ defends “Indigenous workers” against “Cheap Foreign Labour”.
SWP: Assad and Putin Supporters Welcome.
Today Socialist Worker publishes an account of the complexities of the Syrian civil war.
Alex Callinicos notes,
The Syrian war is a complex, many-sided conflict, pitting against each other domestic forces that are increasingly defined in confessional and sectarian terms. These are backed by outside regional and global powers for their own interests. The secular democratic impulse of the original 2011 risings survives only weakly.
He then observes.
Moreover, various currents in the Western left have their sympathies with different sides in the war.
In seeking ‘unity’ in the anti-war ‘movement’ (that is protests) he retreats into the 1st World War ‘revolutionary defeatist” bunker when it comes to his conclusion.
The moral of this is that the anti-war movement should stay out of all the different powers’ geopolitical schemes and the spurious arguments used to justify them.
Our task is to mobilise against the US-led military campaign in the Middle East and our own government’s participation. This broad stand can gain the support of Syrians opposed to the bombings.
This doesn’t mean that people who back Russia, or even Assad, have no place in the anti-war movement. Others on the British left have used their presence at anti-war rallies as a reason for not supporting the Stop the War Coalition.
This is a bad mistake. We should accept that we have different takes on the Syrian struggle, but still work together.
Socialist Worker stands strongly with the Syrian Revolution and its original promise. But we won’t forget that the main enemy is at home, and we’ll unite with all who want to mobilise against it.
How the inclusion in the anti-war movement of those opposed to what Callinicos describes as the Syrian Revolution – that is backers of Assad – works out is beyond rational comprehension.
This reasoning could mean that anybody fighting for the defeat of the ‘main enemy’ – ‘at home’ – is welcome in the anti-war movement.
Now in fact there is no real modern equivalent of this ‘defeatism’ since nobody is arguing the Patriotic case for defending the ‘Nation’ – the UK – against ‘its’ enemies.
There is, in other words, no parallel to the left patriotic ‘defencists’ of the Great War, or to those arguing (rightly) to defend their countries against Nazi occupation.
Trotsky, who is apparently an authority in these affairs, said in 1939,
“… Defeatism is the class policy of the proletariat, which even during a war sees the main enemy at home, within its particular imperialist country. Patriotism, on the other hand, is a policy which locates the main enemy outside one’s own country. The idea of defeatism signifies in reality the following: conducting an irreconcilable revolutionary struggle against one’s own bourgeoisie as the main enemy, without being deterred by the fact that this struggle may result in the defeat of one’s own government; given a revolutionary movement the defeat of one’s own government is a lesser evil. Lenin did not say nor did he wish to say anything else. There cannot even be talk of any other kind of ‘aid’ to defeat.”
Hal Draper.The Myth of Lenin’s “Revolutionary Defeatism”
There is no domestic British ‘revolutionary movement’.
A more rational left position today would be to start not from an abstract “Syrian Revolution”.
It is with the wishes of the democratic left forces on the ground such as the ‘Kurdish nationalist’ (Callinicos’s expression) PKK and its Syrian allies, not to mention Syrian democratic movements. It would be to support the cause of human rights expressed by the suffering peoples of Syria and Iraq.
How the ruin of Cameron, however much one would wish it for domestic reasons, can be compared to the aims of those battling the genociders of Daesh to see them and the other Islamist killers eliminated, is a trick of which groups like the SWP alone have the secret.
It is hard to see how any ‘unity’ could come about between those in the UK who wish for support for these groups in their just struggle, yet oppose British intervention in its present shape, can be made on the basis of a wish to see ‘our’ UK government’ beaten.
The SWP have a morally bankrupt stand.
To say the least.
There once was a Fourth International.
Liam Mac Uaid , who is a respected comrade, has roused an unusual unanimously hostile reaction on the left for this article.
We can agree or disagree with the Fourth International’s analysis: whether there is a ‘side’ worth taking, or not.
But these sentences have become notorious.
Putin’s strategy is to gouge out chunks of Ukrainian territory. He started with Crimea. That is roughly analogous to the north of Ireland. The British state has used the presence of a Protestant population which is opposed to a united Ireland to claim sovereignty over Irish territory.
Another analogy is the Israeli state. There, a settler population displaced the original inhabitants and denied them the right to a Palestinian state. Stalin’s tactics in Crimea were not too different from those of the Israeli state’s founders. He deported almost 200 000 Crimean Tatars and filled the gap with ethnic Russians.
Putin is planning to use the presence of Russian speakers in other parts of Ukrainian territory to annex them. This has even worried Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko. According to The Moscow Times he criticised Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea as setting a “bad precedent.” Even Putin’s friends in the region are twitchy now.
Northern Ireland, Israel, plenty more about Stalin.
A confused phrase stating that, “A defeat for Russian imperialism in Ukraine is both a victory for that mass movement and the Russian working class. ”
This article, with the central analogies cited above, has caused great offence on the left, including some of my close comrades.
Mind you some individuals seem to think that Stalinism=Israel=Northern Ireland=Putin.
The magic of dialectical thinking at work no doubt.