File spoon-archives/marxism-international.archive/marxism-international_1997/97-01-29.113, message 27

Date: Mon, 27 Jan 1997 17:39:00 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Re: M-I: Hitler's democratic victory: a big lie

Justin Schwartz:
>One thing we differ about is how good the prospects were for that bu early
>'33. I think they were not good, and if the workers' parties as they were
>then and there had been serious and smart about stopping Hitler there were
>lesser things they could have done that would have had that effect. These
>would have involved a Popular Front to save Weimar and push it to the
>left. That would surely have been better than the Nazism. 

Louis: The prospects were not good because the SP and the CP had been making
mistakes for an entire decade. Workers are not trained seals who you can
call into action by clapping your hands and tossing them a fish. That is why
they ignored the CP when it called for a general strike to protest Papen's
seizure of power in Prussia. The SP made opportunist mistakes rather than
ultraleft mistakes. 

Justin shares the foolish illusions of the SP leaders when he says that a
Popular Front could have saved Weimar. There is little difference between
the Spanish Popular Front and the Weimar Republic in class terms. All the
Spanish Popular Front amounted to was the Weimar Republic with workers
parties sharing power. The *actions* of the Popular Front Government were
basically the same as Weimar and they were designed to protect capital.
Justin's brand of Marxism includes salesmanship on behalf of Popular Front
governments. I maintain, on the other hand, that "State and Revolution" is
more consistent with genuine Marxism. The state is basically armed bodies of
men defending one form of class rule or another. The Weimar Republic and the
Popular Front were bourgeois states plain and simple.

The reason fascism triumphed in Germany and Spain is because social
democrats found all sorts of rotten excuses to back these latter-day
equivalents of the Kerensky regime. Kerensky and Kornilov, the Russian
fascist, are dialectically interlinked. The only way to block the rise of
the Kornilovs, Francos and Hitlers of the world is to replace bourgeois
forms of class rule with proletarian forms.
>I don't see that a proletarian revolution was possible in the early '30s.
>So, losing the battle in 1918-23 meant that the "war" was lost in the
>following sense: it was impracticable, and politically unwise, to respond
>to the rise of Hitler in the early '30s with the demand for that
>revolution, as long as there were lesser but more reasonably possible
>thigs that could have been done. 

Louis: What third-rate syllogistic banalities. The SP and CP were incapable
of intelligent revolutionary action. Therefore the only meaningful path of
action was to support the creation of a Popular Front in Germany! This
tortured logic is what I might have expected from Justin's stepping forward
to be an attorney for Weimar reformism. 

All that is called for at this point in history is to look back and see
things critically. Justin's call for a Popular Front in Germany and his
excuse for supporting one in Spain is based on his own reformist appetites
and has little to do with thinking through a revolutionary alternative to
what happened. When all is said and done, there is not much that is of
genuine principle in revolutionary politics regardless of the fact that
Trotskyites find a way to turn every question into one of earth-shaking
principle. Jim Robertson of the Spartacist League once split a gasket
because the SWP leadership sent a telegram expressing condolence immediately
after JFK was assassinated. Kerenskyism, he cried out!

There are principles involved that call for opposing the German nationalist
and militarist Hindenburg. Justin thinks it made sense to vote for him--that
is what "defending Weimar" really means when you strip away the socialist
rhetoric. He also finds the Spanish Popular Front government an appropriate
model for Germany in the 1933. With Justin advocating models like this, he
achieves a level of political clarity that often seems missing in his
dispositions on philosophy. I believe he is performing a valuable role by
speaking forcefully here for these questionable beliefs. It is a bit like a
dialog out of Plato.

>You dodge the question. I agree with you about Clinton and McGovern. But
>the question the German left faced in '33 was between Weimar and Nazism.
>Are those really just the same? I think not. For one, Weimar had a modicum
>of liberal democracy, almost up to the end, offering workers the
>opportunity to publish, demonstrate, organize, run candidates, strike etc.
>Nazism didn't offer these things. It offered instead terror, repression,
>concentration camps, censorship, and official lawlessness of a very naked
>kind. Do really regard those as equivalent?

Louis: Justin, you still seem to have a lot of trouble understanding the
relationship between Weimar and Hitler. The Weimar government was working
behind the scenes to aid Hitler, as I have already pointed out. The German
general Schleicher met with his old barracks buddy Hindenburg to get the SA
(storm troopers) going after they had been banned by Bruening the Center
Party politician. The Weimar state was abetting the rise of Hitler, since
the same social forces supported both fascism and parliamentary democracy. 

German big business supported Hitler and Hindenburg both, the way American
big business supports both liberal Democrat and reactionary Republican as
the need arises. Stephen Spielburg donates money to Clinton and the
immigrant-bashing Pete Wilson of California. Workers need their own parties.
As long as people find ideological excuses to support one capitalist
politician against the other, the workers will suffer. Workers in the United
States should not have backed Hubert Humphrey because he was not as bad as
George Wallace. Workers in Germany should not have backed Hindenburg because
he was not as bad as Hitler.

>It's a ridiculous insult to the Spanish Republic to treat even its
>bourgeois leaders as Hindenbergs. And what brought the proletarian
>revolution to a halt was, if Bolleten is right, the savage repression
>exercised against its POUMist and anarochosyndalist advocatists by the
>Soviet Union's agents in Spain. 

Louis: Ridiculous insult? What in the name of pete do you think the CP was
doing when it repressed Poumists and anarchist, other than keeping its
bourgeois allies happy? You have terrible trouble connecting the dots, don't

>But again, you have to look at the total situation. Before '36, organizing
>for revolution against the government made sense. After June '36, there
>was this problem called Franco. He had to be beaten if there was to be any
>security for the cooperatives (which you misleading call "collectivized
>factories") and liberated land. 

Louis: Justin, people fight harder when they believe they have something to
fight for. The Popular Front whittled away at the gains of the proletarian
revolution in Spain that had *preceded* its coming to power. The more it
whittled, the more demoralized workers and peasants became. The only force
that could be relied upon to fight without qualm were the forces loyal to
the CP, the SP and the middle-class officer corps from the old regime that
found Franco objectionable. This was insufficient to stop Franco. Peasants
who had confiscated land to defend would have fought to the finish to stop
Franco, but the landlords of the Popular Front kicked the peasantry off the
land and brought further confiscations to a halt. This is not a strategy
designed to advance socialism.

I suppose it is possible that the Soansih
>workers and peasants could have ownerthrown the Reoublican government and
>organized things quickly enough to be able to defeat Franco. The
>Bolsheviks did something analogous in the Russian Civil War. Of course
>they hada  lot more territory they could lose, and a lot less serious and
>effective military opposition. Because I don't think that was impossible,
>I basically would have supported the POUM or the CNT, who, however, had a
>much more qualified and less hostile attitude towards than Republican
>government than you do, at least in the short term. 

>The reason I mentioned it is that it seems to me that your maximalist
>positions are in the spirit of Trotskyism. Perhaps that makes you a sect
>of one.

Louis: Odd that you should say this. Rahul pointed out the other week that
you share the same sort of dogmatism that our Trotskyist comrades do in your
cocky, self-assured defense of market socialism that, like their defense of
socialist revolution, has little to do with concrete examination of class
relations. They pack a copy of the Transitional Program as they go door to
door, while you keep preaching from that dog-eared copy of "Against
Capitalism" by Schweickart. 

One thing that I have noticed about you on this list is that you never
express doubt about anything. Once you have made up your mind about
something, you don't budge. Also, you are always bragging about the good
schools you have degrees from and the myriad articles you have written for
prestigious journals. This is a sign of insecurity. Really smart people
would be embarrassed to advertise this sort of thing. It is sad that you
have resisted the invitation to interact with people on this list in a way
that invites dialog.

You are a combative and egotistical individual who seeks nothing more than a
bruising debate. I am only to happy to accomodate you, since I am even more
combative and egotistical than you.

Unlike you, I am always eager to learn from other people on occasion. I have
learned an awful lot about Peru from Adolfo and about China from Louis
Godena. I am 52 years old and look to this list as a way to continue my
education. You seem to look at it as nothing more as a place to spout off in
between taking finals. That is why your posts are always so filled with
spelling errors. You are so conceited about the power of your ideas that you
think people will overlook the generally shitty appearance of your prose. It
is odd that the most overweening member of the intelligentsia on the list
and the most self-congratulating "woiker" both share contempt for the need
for correct spelling.

What you need to learn most about politics is not written down in books. It
has to be learned by interacting with people. It is a pity that you don't
use this list in that fashion.

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