Showing posts with label bolsheviks. Show all posts
Showing posts with label bolsheviks. Show all posts

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Lenin and the Russian Revolution (Part 2)


An article on the  Libcom website called “The Soviet State myths and realities 1917-21“ is well worth quoting at length

"The history of the Russian Revolution as told in Soviet textbooks takes place in two phases: the rising of the masses against tsarist oppression, then against Kerensky's bourgeois democracy, engendered a process of radicalization of which the Bolsheviks were both inspirers and spokesmen, preparing the ground for the second phase of the revolution, October 1917. In other words, the communists perceive an historical and theoretical continuity between the autonomous origins of the councils and the Leninist theory of the State, a view which is held even by the anti-Stalinist Marxist-Leninists.

This misrepresentation of the true course of events was essential in order to paper over the divergences between the masses and Bolshevik policy insofar as the Bolsheviks claimed, and still do claim, to incarnate the dictatorship of the proletariat. It was vital to create harmony between Party and masses. But this version of the history of the Russian Revolution contains a double mystification. On the one hand, there was not one type of soviet, but two quite distinct types. The first made its appearance in Russia in 1905, and we find traces of it up to May 1907. These were councils that had arisen spontaneously out of the January-February 1905 strike. We may say that these soviets largely expressed the self-action of the Russian proletariat. Then there were the Russian soviets of 1917, followed by their central European counterparts. In Russia, at least, their emergence was supervised, provoked even, by all those bustling around the revolution in one capacity or another: politicians, trade unionists, journalists, adventurers and demagogues...

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Lenin and the Russian Revolution (Part 1)


The SPGB view expressed repeatedly is socialism could not be established in backward isolated Russian conditions where the majority neither understood nor desired socialism. The takeover of political power by the Bolsheviks obliged them to adapt their programme to those undeveloped conditions and make continual concessions to the capitalist world around them. In the absence of world socialist revolution there was only one road forward for semi-feudal Russia, the capitalist road , and it was the role of the Bolsheviks to develop industry through state ownership and the forced accumulation of capital . The SPGB would classify the Russian Revolution as a bourgeoise revolution without the bourgeoisie. The Bolsheviks, finding Russia in a very backward condition, were obliged to do what had not been fully done previously, i.e. develop capitalism. The Bolsheviks performed the task of setting Russian capitalism on its feet .

"No social order ever disappears before all the productive forces for which there is room within it have been developed; and new higher relations of production never appear before the material conditions of their existence have matured in the womb of the old society" - Marx

The Bolsheviks, however, thought it possible for an active minority, representing the aspirations of the workers, to gain political power before the capitalist revolution itself had been completed. But what would happen if such a minority gained a political victory over the capitalist classes? In those circumstances, the minority become merely the tools of the capitalist class, which has not been virile enough to gain or hold power. Such a minority finds itself in the position of having to develop and run capitalism for a class unable, at the time, to do it successfully itself. In running capitalism, the minority will be compelled to use its power to keep the working class in its wage-slave position. The SPGB argument is that the material conditions in Russia meant the development of capitialism, which the Bolsheviks were unable to avoid. In fact, they became its agents .

Monday, April 22, 2013

Democratic Centralism - Generals looking for privates.


Socialist Courier previously discussed the concept of democracy. Those familiar with the Left will no doubt come across claims that the Trotskyist and Leninist political groups exercise a form of democracy called “democratic centralism”


Socialism’s crisis is a crisis in the meaning of socialism. Many label themselves “socialist” in one sense or another; but there has never been a time as now when the label was less informative. The range of conflicting and incompatible ideas that call themselves socialist is wider than ever.The nearest thing to a common content of the various “socialisms” is a negative: anti-capitalism. But even anti-capitalism holds less and less of a meaning in most cases.

Nowhere else than on the Left is the term “-ism” more extensively and frequently used. We are asked to adhere not only to anarchism, or syndicalism, or socialism, or communism, but also to Marxism, Leninism, Trotskyism, Stalinism, Maoism, Luxemburgism, and a host of much lesser theorists’ “isms”.
Throughout the history of socialist movements and ideas, the fundamental divide is between Socialism-from-Above to be handed down to the grateful masses in one form or another, and Socialism-from-Below holding the view view that socialism can be realized only through the self-emancipation of view that socialism can be realized only through the self-emancipation of the working class, reaching out for freedom with their own hands. The vanguard party and democratic centralism - are nowhere to be found in Marx, while the third, dictatorship of the proletariat, had an entirely different meaning to Marx than the Leninist interpretation.
The name “bolshevik” originated in a controversy between various factions within the Russian Social-Democratic Party meeting in convention in 1903. The word “bolshevik” (from “Bolshe”, meaning more) meant one of the majority, as distinct from the word “Menshevik” (from “menshe”, meaning less), meaning one of the minority. At the convention, however, the majority of the delegates, were later called “mensheviks”, while the minority styled themselves “bolsheviks.” This incongruous situation came about accidentally when, for a short time, the Jewish Socialist Bund boycotted the convention leaving the rump convention, for the moment with the minority in control. This moment was enough for the minority under Lenin, to seize the name “majority men” or "bolsheviks” and brand the real majority as “mensheviks” or “minority men.”

Thus the name “bolshevik” was a trick, a trick of propaganda and political maneuvering, having little to do with the truth of the situation. “Bolshevik” was simply term used by Lenin to give the impression that the majority of the members were with him for all time. He had “won” the Party. This was, of course, a lie. And how strange it seems that Lenin, the man of “principle” should deal with numbers not principles.

The leaders of the Russian Social Democrats (such as Pleckanov, Lenin, Martov, Axelrod, and Trotsky,) were practically all intellectuals who had to leave Russia to live in other countries of Europe. The discussions among the leaders were held abroad, and there was great difficulty for others living in Russia to find their way to the gatherings or conventions. Among the leaders in exile, democratic discussion was taken for granted, but in the Bolshevik faction, once the leaders had decided, the rest back in Russia had to carry out the decisions. The statements issued by the emigre center was the law! If you didn’t like it you could leave the Party!

It was Lenin’s contention that the working class, through its independent development, could achieve a trade union consciousness, but only a vanguard party, composed of professional revolutionists completely identified and fused with the working class, could imbue it with a socialist consciousness and make it aware of its great historic mission. In his pamphlets Lenin outlined the organizational steps necessary to be taken in order to achieve this kind of organization. He wanted a vanguard party closely connected with the masses, but hierarchically organized, with definite bodies, committees, and a program to which all members adhered, and which they actively carried out. The party was to be headed by a central committee which was responsible to the party congress, with the political leadership in the hands of the editorial board of the central party organ, which board could organize and reorganize the units of the party, admit or reject members, and make all political decisions.

The premise of Lenin’s democratic centralism was based on the following reasoning: revolutionaries needed not a mere parliamentary organization but a party of action which direct a vanguard of activists tied to the revolutionary masses. The party should be an elite body of professional revolutionists dedicating their lives to the cause and carrying out their decisions with iron discipline. No task too small; no sacrifice too great. Such a party cannot be built from the bottom up but only from the top down. First, the leadership would show the way, formulating the program and policies, educating the people, and working out the strategy and tactics. The more advanced dedicated workers would join such a party and carry out the decisions. A degree of discussion might be permitted but, once a decision was made, unity in action and stern discipline was insisted on. In the Russia of Lenin’s time, under the despotism of the Czar’s police, political activity had to be carried out secretly so full democracy by the rank and file membership was practically impossible to attain.

Within Russia where the class struggles became more intense, and real battles were raging in the strikes and demonstrations these exiles had very little experience in strategy and tactics to be the actual leaders in these events. They could analyse the over-all political significance of the events and bring their views to the international socialist conventions, but the militants in the field had to develop their own initiative, ingenuity, and judgment to carry on the best they could. Once the Russian Revolution, was underway the democratic tendencies expressed itself and everywhere there were meetings, discussions, voting. In the Soviets there was voting on all the vital issues of the day, on programmes set up by leaders of rival parties fighting for power. In this type of situation the advantage rested with the Bolsheviks who, under Lenin, had long advocated a centralist party.

In 1902 “democratic” centralism had been advocated because of Czarist terror and the secret police, but in 1917 it was advocated because of the needs of the civil war. In the civil war the power of the leadership was strengthened. The “ideal of ‘democratic centralism’ suffered further reverses, for in effect the power within both the government and the Party became concentrated in the hands of Lenin and the immediate retinue of Bolshevik leaders who did not openly disagree with him and carried out his wishes. The dictatorship (or rule) of the proletariat (or rule of the workers) gave way to the dictatorship of the party, the dictatorship of the party to the dictatorship of the executive committee, the dictatorship of the committee to the dictatorship of “the leader.” Supposed “democratic” centralism had turned to into simple “centralism”. Many of todays’s vanguard parties go at great lengths about centralism, but are unsurprisingly rather silent about democracy.

“Democratic” centralism, as developed by the Bolsheviks was a Russian product, adapted for Russian conditions, as the Bolsheviks themselves. Rosa Luxemburg described Lenin’s conception of organisation thus: ‘the Central Committee is everything whereas the real party is only its appendage, a mindless mass which moves mechanically on the orders of the leader like the army exercising on the parade ground” It can be added that although everyone marches in step, the orders are usually wrong.

Democratic centralism poses as a form of inner party democracy, but it is really just a hierarchy by which each member of a party (ultimately of a society) is subordinate to a higher member until one reaches the all-powerful party central committee and its Chairman/General Secretary. This is a totally undemocratic procedure, which puts the leadership above criticism, even if it is not above reproach. It is a bankrupt, corrupt method of internal operations for a political organisation. You have no voice in such a party. The practice of Trotskyist-Leninist parties is that the Central Committee unilaterally sets policy for the entire organization, and their authority reigns.

The Socialist Party of Great Britain is a party of no leaders or, if you will, every member is a leader. Our directly elected Executive Committee is only a “house-keeping” committee for the day-to-day running of the Party (our General Secretary is little better than general dogs-body!). The EC has no power to decide policy. It doesn't even have the authority to submit resolutions to conference. Only branches can do that. Nor does conference decide - only a postal referendum poll of our individual members provides the mandate for Party decisions.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

The Bolshevik Coup

Although commonly called the October Revolution because of a change in calendars, it took place 95 years ago on this day.

The Socialist Party of Great Britain has advanced a number of reasons why the Bolshevik Revolution couldn't be socialist.

1. The minority position of the working class, greatly outnumbered by the peasantry. 18 million wage workers of which only 3 million worked in factories or mines. The population at the time was 160 milion
2. Socialist consciousness was lacking amongst those workers. Socialism could not be established in backward isolated Russian conditions where the majority neither understood nor desired socialism.
3. Socialism could not be the outcome of the revolution in Russia because the low level of productive forces ruled out any chance of socialism being established there. The economic elements are lacking or insufficiently developed
4. Russia was surrounded by a capitalist world, to which it needed to adapt and conform to.

Certainly many workers believed that the Bolshevik Revolution would end in socialism, however, the illusions of the workers cannot replace the reality. Material conditions in Russia meant the development of capitialism, which the Bolsheviks were unable to avoid. In fact, they became its agents. It was the role of the Bolsheviks to develop industry through state ownership and the forced accumulation of capital.

The Bolsheviks disguised their seizure of power as an act of the soviets but, of course, Trotsky openly admits that the insurrection was planned by the Military Revolutionary Committee of the Petrograd Soviet, of which he was the chair and which had a Bolshevik majority. Trotsky describes how this Committee 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 7 November were a Bolshevik coup d'etat. At one point Trotsky actually writes that on the morning of 7 November the workers of Petrograd woke up to find the Bolshevik Party carried out a revolution while they were asleep. There is little doubt that Petrograd supported the overthrow of Kerenky's increasingly impotent and unpopular government, but they were in favour of a coalition government formed by all the "workers" parties, ie the Bolsheviks, Mensheviks, Social Revolutionaries and others, that would be answerable to the soviet. Many within the Bolshevik Party itself accepted such a position but they were over-ruled by Lenin's determination to seize power for the Bolshevik party alone. What Russia got was a Bolshevik government which soon usurped power from the soviets and turned into a one-party dictatorship.

From 1917 all vestiges of democratic self-reliance by the working class was removed piece by piece. "Power to the Soviets" became a sham as Bolshevik party functionaries took total control.

"What have i done...?"




Saturday, October 01, 2011

Stalin bad, Lenin good???

A terrific article by Richard Montague in this month's Socialist Standard states:
"Josef Stalin, who by an ironic inversion of the ‘Great Man’ theory of history subsequently became the Lucifer of the Left and the architect of evil in the Russian empire, wrote a pamphlet called Socialism or Anarchism in 1905 in which he correctly summed up the Marxian view of socialism:".....and further."Many contemporary exponents of Leninism ascribe the awful saga of totalitarian rule that emerged from this sort of thinking to Stalin. Yes, Stalin did head the list of political gangsters that terrorised Russia following the Bolshevik Revolution, but it was the elitist nonsense promoted by Lenin, as evidenced above, and the undemocratic political structures established by the Bolshevik Party that created the pathway to the massive evils of Stalinism."

You can read it for yourselves on the new website being developed.

Summer School

Summer School 2017

Summer School 2017  21st – 23rd July Fircroft College, Birmingham   These days, con...