File spoon-archives/marxism-international.archive/marxism-international_1997/marxism-international.9710, message 212


Subject: M-I: Re: American fascism?
Date: Mon, 13 Oct 1997 11:44:15 +1300


Louis Proyect wrote:


> Meanwhile the USSR survived the war bloodied but unbowed. In a series of
> negotiations with the US and its allies, Stalin won the right to create
> "buffer" states to his West. A whole number of socialist countries then
> came into being. China and Yugoslavia had deep-going proletarian
> revolutions that, joined with the buffer states, would soon account for
> more than 1/4 of the world's population.

This is an incredibly stalinophile picture of this period. After some
discussion of the popular front on this list one would think it necessary
to have to take into account the role of the the Stalinist USSR in making
capitalism's survival possible? After all, it was the popular front policy
which disarmed the CP's all around the world, or when they failed as in
Indo-China and Greece, had to physically liquidate the Trotskyist
opposition. This is what lay behind the "series of negotiations" with the
US and its allies, the USSR got a free hand in EE in exchange for an
undertaking to suppress working class resistance to war and its aftermath.
So the real cause of the post-war boom were the massive defeats suffered by
the international working class, including the victorious workers and
peasants of the USSR, who had been drawn into a war against fascism instead
of a civil war against capitalism. The victories of what you call
"socialist" countries such as China and Yugoslavia were not the result of
"deep going proleterian revolutions" but the result of the devastation of
war upon workers and poor peasants  who supported national stalinist
leaderships in the struggle to overthrow capitalist property. But these
revolutions were not based on the mobilisation of the independent working
class, and especially in Yugoslavia owed very little to the USSR except for
some arms and trade aid. In other words these were anti-capitalist
revolutions which happened despite, as well as because of the USSR, showing
that even with the complicity of the USSR, world capitalism was far from
suppressing anti-capitalist struggles. So it was not capitalist strenght
but the complicity of the USSR in capitalist stabilisation that caused
these new states to remained trapped in conditions of national
backwardness, isolated from the world revolutionary movement, as
degenerated workers states. The degenerated character of the USSR was
reproduced in each and every one of the new DWS's.
 
> World imperialism took an aggressive stance toward the socialist bloc
> before the smoke had cleared from the WWII battlegrounds. Churchill made
> his "cold war" speech and contradictions between the socialist states and
> world capitalism grew very sharp. Imperialism began using the same type
of
> rhetoric and propaganda against the USSR that it had used against the
> Nazis. Newreels of the early fifties would depict a spreading red blot
> across the European continent. This time the symbol superimposed on the
> blot was a hammer-and-sickle instead of a swastika. The idea was the
same:
> to line up the American people against the enemy overseas that was trying
> to gobble up the "free world".
>
Yes, having kept its side of the bargain, the USSR under stalin then found
that capitalism victorioius and renewed once more had the strength to take
on the USSR, to further isolate, contain, and ultimately bring it to its
knees in the late 1980's.  It showed that capitalism despite its victory
over workers in the war could not rest until it had further defeated the
survivals of the October revolution. Because they remained a powerful
material and moral force on the side of workers everywhere. This showed
that the working class still remained a powerful threat. In NZ for example,
hardly the heartland of the workers movement, the labour movement fought
their "own" Labour government attempts to maintain wartime austerity
measures. Right around the world the US and its allies unlaunched the cold
war in an orchestrated fashion. Dulles visited NZ around the time of the
Korean war, and shortly after in 1951, a National government, longtime
enemy of the working class, made a pre-emptive strike against the most
powerful unions including a major clampdown on civil rights. The communist
and syndicalist leadership of the main unions was destroyed as the "enemy
within" and NZ became locked into the global western alliance in ANZAS.
 
 
> I will argue that a similar dynamic has existed in US politics over the
> past twenty years. Instead of having a "cold war" against the socialist
> countries, we have had a "cold war" on the working-class and its allies.
> James Carter, a Democrat, set into motion the attack on working people
and
> minorities, while successive Republican and Democratic administrations
have
> continued to stoke the fire. Reaganism is Carterism raised to a higher
> level. All Buchanan represents is the emergence of a particularly
> reactionary tendency within this overall tendency toward the right.
>
What makes you think that these two "cold wars" are separate? The real cold
war against the USSR was always a class war against workers everywhere,
including the USSR and USA. Its mission was to destoy the gains of October.
The end of the "cold war" with the restoration of capitalism in the former
USSR deepens the class war internationally. While the destruction of the
USSR is a major defeat for workers everywhere and gives the capitalists
cause for celebration, like the end of the last hot war in 1945,
capitalism's stability is not guaranteed. While capitalist restoration in
Russia and China allows huge new chunks of the world to be repartitioned
among the imperialist powers, this does not overcome the fundamental causes
of crisis. It allows a further concentration and centralisation of capital,
and renewed accumulation at the core, but it intensifies the global
contradiction, further destroys the forces of production, and widens the
gap between capitalist and working classes. 

 
> Attacks on the working-class and minorities have nothing to do with "bad
> faith" on the part of people like William Clinton. We are dealing with a
> global restructuring of capital that will be as deep-going in its impact
on
> class relations internationally as the cold war was in its time. The cold
> war facilitated the removal of the Soviet Union as a rival. Analogously,
> the class war on working people in the advanced capitalist countries that
> began in the Carter years facilitates capital's next new expansion.
> Capitalism is a dynamic system. This dynamism includes not only war and
> "downsizing", it also includes fabulous growth in places like the East
> Coast of China. To not see this is to not understand capitalism.

But your  view of capitalism's "dynamism" is totally onesided. You forget
the basic contradiction which means that capitalism's dynamism is dependent
upon realising use-values as exchange values.  All around the world
"dynamism" is tenuous and tied to a rising middle class in Asia and a
compliant labour aristocracy in the imperialist core. But this is a small
sector of the worlds population which in its mass is undergoing a much
deeper class polarisation with fabulous wealth at one pole and mass misery
at the other. 
> 
> Even the recent UPS strike has to be understood in the context of an
upturn
> in the business cycle. One of the elements of the Teamster victory was
the
> low unemployment levels in areas where UPS warehouses were located,
> especially in the mid-west. This meant that striking workers could find
> temporary work without much trouble and withstand a long strike. The UPS
> bosses also would find it more difficult to find scabs, since the reserve
> army of the unemployed was at low ebb. This is elementary to any Marxist.
> For somebody with pretenses to Marxism, like Rodwell, it is a mystery.
>
So while this blip on the screen in the US looms large and can be explained
superficially as a labour supply effect, when you scroll the whole
document, this upturn far from giving hope to upturnitis [or the chronic
pessimism of Godena] should be read as a symptom of global restructuring in
which service workers like UPS workers can expect to win some small gains,
but then lose all of it in increased exploitation, and ultimately in
competition with guestworkers, UNLESS the labour movement renews itself as
a militant rank and file which breaks out of the chauvinist bureaucratic
stranglehold of the union bosses and links up with organised workers in
other countries. This cannot happen without a Bolshevik-Leninist vanguard
party in the lead.
 
> The following appears in an article in the April 5, 1954 Militant titled
> "First Principles in the Struggle Against Fascism." 
> 
> "The United States, the most powerful capitalist country in history, is a
> component part of the world capitalist system and is subject to the same
> general laws. It suffers from the same incurable diseases and is destined
> to share the same fate. The overwhelming preponderance of American
> imperialism does not exempt it from the decay of world capitalism, but,
on
> the contrary, acts to involve it even more deeply, inextricably and
> hopelessly. US capitalism can no more escape from the revolutionary
> consequences of world capitalist decay than the older European capitalist
> powers. The blind alley in which world capitalism has arrived, and the US
> with it, excludes a new organic era of capitalist stabilization. The
> dominant world position of American imperialism now accentuates and
> aggravates the death agony of capitalism as a whole."
> 
> It is of course based on a totally inaccurate misunderstanding of the
state
> of global capital. Capitalism was not in a "blind alley" in 1954. The
truth
> is that from approximately 1946 on capitalism went through the most
> sustained expansion in its entire history. To have spoken about the
"death
> agony" of capitalism in 1954 was utter nonsense. This "catastrophism"
could
> only serve to misorient the left since it did not put McCarthyism in
proper
> context.
>
Yes, but you have failed to explain why capitalism survived the war and was
able to embark on this period of sustained accumulation.
See above. The SWP under Cannon applied Trotsky's pre-war perspectives
blindly after the war and talked of the war continuing in  1946. And this
was the same SWP that Proyect now considers to be a revolutionary
trotskyist organisation in the 1970's when you happened to be a member? 
You can't have it both ways. Or course it is easy for all of us to be
critical of catastrophism today but we dont change anything unless we
understand its causes, and in doing so can avoid its opposite, economism.
Both are equally the result of a menshevik approach to marxism. So while
you are right to criticise the failure of the SWP to understand McCarthyism
in its proper context, namely the post-war boom, you don't approach the
problem dialectically and you reproduce an equally one-sided boom-time
economism based on an objective capitalist dynamism. 

> One of the great contributions made by Nicos Poulantzas in his "Fascism
and
> the Third International" was his diagnosis of the problem of
> "catastrophism". According to Poulantzas, the belief that capitalism has
> reached a "blind alley" first appeared in the Comintern of the early
> 1920's. He blames this on a dogmatic approach to Lenin's "Imperialism,
The
> Highest Stage of Capitalism" that existed in a communist movement that
was
> all too eager to deify the dead revolutionist.
> 
 Poulantzas was far from the first to oppose catastrophism and could not
understand its roots anyway since his neo-Ricardian sociology blinded him
to the dynamic of capitalist crises. So he opposed catastrophism from its
equally one sided pole, economism.  It is easy to see then why he should
blame Lenin for this ultra-left fatalist position. All economists
categorise anyone to the left as catastrophic and who better to pick on to
discredit revolutionary marxism than Lenin and his "Imperialism"? 
If you had taken the trouble to read and understand Trotsky like you
claimed on the Third International after Lenin you would see that the
sources of this catastrophism were the evolutionary marxism of 2nd
International, reproduced in the 3rd around leading theorists such as
Bukharin who took this theory into the Comintern in the form, as Trotsky
commented, of a bastardised "permanent revolution".

> Lenin's theory of imperialism owed much to Hilferding and Bukharin who
> believed that capitalism was moribund and incapable of generating new
> technical and industrial growth. Moreover, this capitalist system was in
a
> perpetual crisis and wars were inevitable. The Comintern latched onto
this
> interpretation and adapted it to the phenomenon of fascism. Fascism, in
> addition to war, was also a permanent feature of the decaying capitalist
> system. A system that had reached such an impasse was a system that was
in
> a permanent catastrophic mode. The Comintern said that it was five
minutes
> to midnight.

So the degeneration of the Comintern after the death of Lenin and the
sidelining of Trotsky followed from its bureaucratisation which allowed the
menshevik polarity of catastrophism/economism to gain the ascendancy over
the genuine Bolsheviks. The common source of these twin deviations from
revolutionary marxism is the separation of objective and subjective reality
by the liquiation of the working class vanguard, and has its material roots
in the petty bourgeoisie. 

Louis, unable to appreciate that the problem is not only the SWP's
fatalism, but also his own economism goes on to explain correctly that
fascism is no immediate threat in the USA because the working class his not
mobilised against captitalism. Then seeing the need for this mobilisation
he falls into the same old economist traps of the past, learning nothing,
offering nothing but false hopes and repeated betrayals.

> The left has not been able to present an alternative to Buchanan. It has
> been making the same kinds of mistakes that hampered the German left in
the
> 1920s: ultraleft sectarianism and opportunism. Our "Marxist-Leninist"
> groups, all 119 of them, offer themselves individually as the answer to
Pat
> Buchanan. Meanwhile, social democrats and left-liberals at the Nation
> magazine and elsewhere are preparing all the reasons one can think of to
> vote for the "lesser evil".

Its not surprising that the US left continues to make mistakes since it has
an ideologically backward labour aristoracy dominating its "left" politics
which necessarily takes a US chauvninist approach to everything - ultraleft
or economist. Proyect himself, while imagining that he has escaped these
twin terrors, cannot in fact while he rejects the lessons of communist
history and  in particular the Bolshevik-Leninist model of the vanguard
party. Without such a conception Proyect remains an economist with a
menshevik method, putting his faith in a spontanist working class
consciousness emerging when the historical conditions are right. What he
forgets or refuses to learn is that objective conditons alone never make
revolutions. Capitalism has been objectively at the point of destruction
twice in this century, in the period 1914-1923 and 1939-48. Capitalism only
survived because the working class was betrayed by the middle class
leadership of the 2nd and 3rd Internationals.  Workers will continue to
vote for the "lesser evil" unless and until there is a revolutionary
alternative based on the Bolshevik model.
> 
> What the left needs to do is coalesce around a class-based, militant
> program. The left has not yet written this program, despite many
assurances
> to the contrary we can hear on this list every day. It will have to be in
> the language of the American people, not in Marxist-Leninist jargon. Some
> people know how speak effectively to working people. I include Michael
> Moore the film-maker. I also include people like our own Doug Henwood,
and
> Alex Cockburn and his co-editor Ken Silverstein who put out a newsletter
> called "Counterpunch".
> Most of all, the model we need is like Eugene V. Debs and the Socialist
> Party of the turn of the century, minus the right-wing. Or, another
> possible model is the Popular Front of the CP without the orientation to
> FDR. Study the speeches of Debs or listen to the songs of Woody Guthrie
and
> you get an idea of the kind of language we need to speak. Our mission
today
> remains the same as it was in turn of the century Russia: to build a
> socialist party where none exists.

Here we have it. A fantastic array of dishes served up by Proyect. Pick and
mix salad bar for the new mellennium!
As if Debs the Popular Front of the CP [minus the popular front] have not
been transcended by the more recent history of revolutionary struggles. 
Well, one thing we can say about Proyects new intepretation of history, is
that his political alternative would ensure that workers would never become
a real threat to the bosses, since they would be so diverted by petty
bourgeois psuedo politics that we never need to be worried about a genuine,
as opposed to theatrical fascism,  appearing on the good old US shores.
Once more, America saved from fascism, by saving it first from socialism.

Dave.


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