Friday, March 13, 2020

A further look at Russian History

Indeed, during and after the first world war a number of working class militants such as Luxemburg came to recognise that the traditional social democracy policy of seeking to win a parliamentary majority on an electoral programme of reforms of capitalism could never lead to socialism. Luxemburg was very much sympathetic to the Bolsheviks, just as many others were in this early period when information was still scanty and Bolsheviks message was the prevalent one. She had criticisms of "big" policies such as attitudes towards the peasants and nationalities.S
he also differed on the issue of the Constituent Assembly.
"To be sure, every democratic institution has its limits and shortcomings, things which it doubtless shares with all other human institutions. But the remedy which Trotsky and Lenin have found, the elimination of democracy as such, is worse than the disease it is supposed to cure; for it stops up the very living source from which alone can come correction of all the innate shortcomings of social institutions." 
It was never suggested a coalition or power sharing with "bourgeois" parties such as with the Cadets but with those parties recognised by workers as legitimate expressions of their politics and interests, the SRs and Mensheviks, particularly the Left of them. (for the sake of debate we have to focus on Russia ie Petrograd and Moscow and not the Ukraine and Georgia and other regions deserving their own analyses.)
Interesting that the offer of alliance you referred to with fellow workers parties was also the time that Lenin was still committed to the Constituent Assembly that Luxemburg and Martov both supported
"The compromise would amount to the following: the Bolsheviks, without making any claim to participate in the government... A condition that is self-evident and not new to the S.R.s and Mensheviks would be complete freedom of propaganda and the convocation of the Constituent Assembly without further delays or even at an earlier date. The Mensheviks and S.R.s, being the government bloc, would then agree (assuming that the compromise had been reached) to form a government wholly and exclusively responsible to the Soviets, the latter taking over all power locally as well. This would constitute the “new” condition. I think the Bolsheviks would advance no other conditions, trusting that the revolution would proceed peacefully and party strife in the Soviets would be peacefully overcome thanks to really complete freedom of propaganda and to the immediate establishment of a new democracy in the composition of the Soviets (new elections) and in their functioning. Perhaps this is already impossible? Perhaps. But if there is even one chance in a hundred, the attempt at realising this opportunity is still worth while." - Lenin
But notice, the implication that soviet power is a necessary condition. What was the standing and allegiance of the soviets towards in September? Did the Bolsheviks dominate the soviets? Your mention of July Days was a time when Lenin actually disavowed the power and independence of the soviets and even many of his grassroots Bolsheviks.
The storming of the Winter Palace, was done by a few hundred pro-Bolshevik soldiers planned by the Military Revolutionary Committee of the Petrograd Soviet, of which Trotsky was the chair and which had a Bolshevik majority and which took its orders directly from the Central Committee of the Bolshevik Party. So, although the soviets had played a part in overthrowing Tsarism and opposing the Kerensky government, the events of November were a Bolshevik take-over.
Were the mass of the Petrograd workers consciously involved in deciding on the revolution? No. On the morning of 7 November the workers of Petrograd woke up to find that in the night the Bolshevik Party had assumed power, the Bolsheviks had carried out a revolution while they were asleep.
The MRC was set up by the Soviet on the basis of defending Petrograd because it was rumoured of another potential Kornilov plot or an imminent invading German army. It was not set up on the basis that it would overthrow the provisional government. But then, under the pretext of organising the military defence of Petrograd from this phantom invading German army, Trotsky at the head of the Petrograd Soviet's Military Revolutionary Committee, took over the garrison unit by unit, through a system of commissars, first securing vital points like the train stations and telegraph office, then finally taking the Winter Palace'
"even when the compromisers were in power, in the Petrograd Soviet, that the Soviet examined or amended decisions of the government. This was, as it were, part of the constitution under the regime named after Kerensky. When we Bolshevists got the upper hand in the Petrograd Soviet we only went on with the system of double power and widened its application. We took it on ourselves to revise the order sending the troops to the front, and so we disguised the actual fact of the insurrection of the Petrograd garrison under the tradition and precedents and technique of the constitutional duplication of authority” - Trotsky - Lessons of October

It would be misleading to say that it was carried out by the proletariat organised in soviets as such. Were non-Bolshevik proletarians in District soviets aware this was coming? No. Were the Left-SR participants in the MRC? No. Were even the moderate wing of leading Bolsheviks supportive? No.
But as I said the actual action did receive popular endorsement as it was perceived to be resulting in a coalition of workers parties, not a Bolshevik one-party state. The total lack of opposition to the Bolsheviks and the absence of support for the Provisional Government reflected the sympathies of the workers. Support for the action after the event from the Soviet of Petrograd Trade Unions and the All-Russian Soviet of Factory Committees amongst others. The factory committees rallied to the Bolsheviks because the latter appeared to support the workers' aspirations. The majority of the members of the Petrograd Soviet were in favour of the overthrow of the Kerensky government, but did this mean they were in favour of the installation of a Bolshevik government? What they were in favour of was a coalition government formed by all the "workers" parties, i.e. the Bolsheviks, Mensheviks, SRs and others. This was in fact favoured by many within the Bolshevik Party itself, but they were over-ruled by Lenin who went to great pains to disguise his party's coup as the formation of a soviet government, which it wasn't. Once they got governmental power the Bolsheviks side-lined the soviets almost straightaway. The soviets were always considered as a cover to secure Bolshevik power.
This leads us to another important divergence of our respective positions. Post-October and the situation of the soviets does find us disagreeing. Anarchists, Left SRs and Mensheviks scholars tend to coalesce in their criticisms of the treatment of the soviets by the Bolsheviks - and naturally enough, those sympathetic towards Lenin take a different view but surely the proof of the pudding is very much in the eating. The soviets were institutionalized by the July 1918 constitution, which voided them of all revolutionary and autonomous content.
To sort of sum up, within the Socialist Party, some members think Lenin and the Bolsheviks were genuine socialists who were inevitably bound to fail to introduce socialism because the conditions weren't there for this and that their method of minority dictatorship was mistaken. While other members believe they were elitists, Jacobinists or Blanquists, from the very start who were always going to establish the rule of a new elite even though they labelled themselves socialists.
Rather than Bolshevik elitism was an inevitable product of the decision to build state capitalism in Russia in the aftermath of the October revolution, it was the other way round, the decision to build state capitalism was an inevitable product of the Bolsheviks' elitism.
Both analyses are an advance on the degenerate party and deformed workers’ state propositions offered up.
Overall,the Socialist Party sympathises more with Martov's viewpoint than Luxemburg's. One was on the ground and the other was in a German prison during much of the key moments and we can imagine much of her sources were limited compared to an active participant...but again Luxemburg from a distance could perhaps see the wood rather than Martov who could only perhaps perceive the trees.
Outside the Socialist Party, this article resonates so it is deserving of being credited.

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