File spoon-archives/marxism-international.archive/marxism-international_1997/97-01-29.113, message 3

Date: Mon, 27 Jan 1997 10:44:14 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Re: M-I: Hitler's democratic victory: a big lie

>I'm not so sure. In Germany, the proletarian revolution had been defeated
>by 1923, largely by Freikorps terror with the complicity of the SDP
>government. I'd need to see more evidence that I have that it was on the
>agenda in the early 1930s. 

Louis: When Justin says "the proletarian revolution had been defeated by
1923"  he is once again being uncharacteristically terse when it comes to
the historical arena. He can pump out oceans of cyber-ink when discussing
the virtues of analytical Marxism or market socialism in the abstract but is
almost zen-like in his ability to speak about the problem of proletarian
revolution in the concrete.

First of all, when he says "the proletarian revolution" instead of "a
proletarian revolution", he is allowing a turn of phrase to substitute for
rigorous political analysis. If you say "a proletarian revolution had been
defeated" you indicate that a battle was lost. If you say "the proletarian
revolution was defeated", then you indicate that the war was lost.

You ask for "more evidence" that proletarian revolution was on the agenda in
the early 1930s. What evidence do you need other than a mass fascist
movement and big business support for Hitler. If you want evidence of a
guranteed victory, then I can give you none. It would be irresponsible for a
revolutionary socialist to make such guarantees, however. There will always
be an element of risk in our enterprise, but we have no choice.

The bourgeoisie prefers to rule through parliamentary democracy. When
parliamentary democracy lacks a material base of capitalist prosperity to
sustain it, society polarizes. The working-class radicalizes and the
ruling-class plots coup d'etat. When the polarization is most deep as it was
in Germany and Italy, it opts for the most extreme coup d'etat: fascism. If
the workers parties can not rise to the occasion, but muddle along in
parliamentary cretinist fashion, the middle class will be drawn to fascism
while the workers will lose heart. This is what occurred in Germany in the

I could provide more evidence than this, but I have to turn my attention to
other more pressing subjects. I have a novel suggestion. Why don't you
provide evidence to support your own claims instead of challenging me to
provide evidence to support my own? If you are planning to be a lawyer, you
should get some benefit out of preparing a case on a Marxism list. You are
an attorney for Weimar Republic reformism here, aren't you?

>As to Spain, while I am a POUMist and and an
>anarchist in my sympathies and quite agree with the Bolleten-Orwell view
>that the Soviets went a long way towards wrecking the Republic's chances
>of survival by its terroristic methods, I don't think that proletarian
>revolution in Spain alone had a snowball's chance in hell. Practically
>speaking the real choice in both circumjstances was defense of a
>radicalized bourgeois democracy. Ina ny case that would have been better
>than what happened in either country.

Louis: Justin says, "I don't think that proletarian revolution in Spain
alone had a snowball's chance in hell." I am always interested in how Justin
formulates his ideas. What history did he read to help him form this
opinion? Was it a book with good photos? Or was it that fine documentary
about the Abraham Lincon Brigade? Great characters, bad politics. 

>And how does this respond to my critique of your mistake? The KPD said
>that the SDP were social-fascists, you say that bourgeois democracy is no
>democracy. Neither they nor you see any merit in the position
>charicated, regardless of the circumstances. Doubtless it would have been a
>good thing had the workers parties joined and used extraparlaimentary
>means to fight the Nazis, but that would have required a mesaure of trust
>and a degree of compromise that was not practically possible--not at leat
>without the KPD retracting, and sincerely so, its fatal error.

Louis: What confusion! Justin, I regard the Socialist Parties of the Second
International--in general--to be part of the workers movement. My model of
how to relate to these formations is the FMLN-FDN in El Salvador, which
included social democrat Gulliermo Ungo as a major spokesman. He stood side
by side with the CPers, who were led by Shafiq Handal. This is called a
united front. This was what was needed in Germany in the 1930s. Instead we
had the German equivalent of Shafiq Handal characterizing the German
equivalent of Ungo as being as bad as Hitler. This disunity led to Hitler's
triumph. The attitude the worker's movement in Germany should have had
toward the Weimar Republic is one of implacable hostility, like the left had
toward the US sponsored government in El Salvador. 

The left's goal should not be to preserve bourgeois constitutional rule, but
to transform society. Its interest in "democracy" has more to do with
fighting for the right to demonstrate, publish newspapers, run workers
candidates, etc. It uses the institutions of bourgeois democracy in order to
overcome it through proletarian revolution. This is the Marxist view of the
state and nothing particularly novel. Your views are different, however, and
represent concessions to liberal democracy.

>Here is the fatal mistake. All forms of bourgeois rule are alike. Nothing
>will do but total revolution. And if this is impossible? Well, we can
>blame the misleaders of the workers' movement for not advocating it
>anyway. How do you know that the German working class could not have been
>mobilized to defend its rights and freedoms? After all, no one tried to do
>this by your own correct account. In Spain, the workers were effectivly
>mobilized to defend the Republic, only to go down in part because Stalin
>decided that he would only defend a Republic that was acceptable to the
>Westy, and the West didn't really care what happened.

Louis: All forms of bourgeois rule are the same in that they represent the
dictatorship of capital. The real question is how to fight bourgeois
reaction, not whether there is a difference between Richard Nixon and George
McGovern. The electoral policy of the social democracy and the CP of the
Popular Front is to urge political support for "lesser evil" bourgeois
politicians like Bill Clinton and their German and Spanish equivalents.

My interest is not in "blaming" anybody. This is the Trotskyite method. I am
simply looking for political allies at the tail-end of the 20th century who
are ready to build socialist parties based on sound Marxist principles. What
sounder principle can there be than to not urge workers to vote for
nationalist militarists like Hindenburg as a way to stop Hitler? Or to vote
for a government that is a coalition of the Spanish equivalent of Hindenburg
and the workers parties, especially when the main goal of that government is
to bring proletarian revolution to a grinding halt in the name of
"anti-fascist" unity.

By the way, did you learn this class-collaborationist ideology in the Maoist
group you belonged to, or is this something new that you learned in academic
Marxism circles? I don't recall hearing much of this sort of thing in the
pages of Against the Current.

>They, and especially Weimar, were bourgeois regimes, certainly. But not
>only are all bourgeois regimes not equivalent to fascism, not all
>bourgeois regimes are equivalent to one another. Republican Spain, for
>example, was a lot more inspiring and worker-friendly than Weimar. A sane

Louis: What you call "Republican Spain" was a proletarian revolution that
had been started prior to the formation of the Popular Government. The
purpose of that government was to abort the proletarian revolution. It was
the attempt of the Spanish bourgeoisie to set up a Spanish version of the
Weimar Republic, with the added novelty of participation of the workers
parties. The tragedy, of course, is that the workers parties accepted the
invitation. In order to get accepted to the dinner table of the bourgeoisie,
it had to drive peasants off of liberated farmland and workers out of
collectivized factories.

>Funny thing about this. Trotskyists always have correct positions, but they
>never seem to be able to translate them into a meaningful political
>alternative. What does this tell us? (NB, many of my comrades are
>Trotskyists, and Solidarity is descended from the Schachtman breakaway from
>the SWP.)

Louis: What does this tell us? It tells us that Trotskyists are professional
sectarians. I used to be one myself in the years 1967 to 1978. Since 1981 I
have been a generic Marxist strongly influenced by the Cuban and Nicaraguan
revolution. I also identify strongly with the editorial boards of Monthly
Review and Socialist Register. These publications are not Trotskyist, the
last time I checked.

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