Archive for the Left wing Ideology Category

Trotskyism

Posted in Left wing Ideology with tags on July 26, 2008 by parimon

Another lesson in Left wing ideology, Revisionist Trotskyism. 

Trotskyism is the theory of Marxism as advocated by Leon Trotsky. Trotsky considered himself an orthodox Marxist and Bolshevik-Leninist, arguing for the establishment of a vanguard party. His politics differed sharply from those of Stalinism, most importantly in declaring the need for an international proletarian revolution (rather than socialism in one country) and unwavering support for a true dictatorship of the proletariat based on democratic principles.

Trotsky was, together with Lenin, the most important and well-known leader of the Russian Revolution and the international Communist movement in 1917 and the following years. Nowadays, numerous groups around the world continue to describe themselves as Trotskyist, although they have developed Trotsky’s ideas in different ways. A follower of Trotskyist ideas is usually called a “Trotskyist” or (in an informal or pejorative way) a “Trotskyite” or “Trot”.

James P. Cannon in his 1942 book History of American Trotskyism wrote that “Trotskyism is not a new movement, a new doctrine, but the restoration, the revival of genuine Marxism as it was expounded and practiced in the Russian revolution and in the early days of the Communist International.” However, Trotskyism can be distinguished from other Marxist theories by four key elements.

  • Support for the strategy of permanent revolution, in opposition to the Two Stage Theory of his opponents;
  • Criticism of the post-1924 leadership of the Soviet Union, analysis of its features and after 1933, support for political revolution in the Soviet Union and in what Trotskyists term the deformed workers’ states;
  • Support for social revolution in the advanced capitalist countries through working class mass action;
  • Support for proletarian internationalism.

On the political spectrum of Marxism, Trotskyists are considered to be on the left. They supported democratic rights in the USSR, opposed political deals with the imperialist powers, and advocated a spreading of the revolution throughout Europe and the East.

In 1905, Trotsky formulated a theory that became known as the Trotskyist theory of Permanent Revolution. It may be considered one of the defining characteristics of Trotskyism. Until 1905, Marxists had only shown how a revolution in a European capitalist society could lead to a socialist one. But this excluded countries such as Russia. Russia in 1905 was widely considered to have not yet established a capitalist society, but was instead largely feudal with a small, weak and almost powerless capitalist class.

The theory of Permanent Revolution addressed the question of how such feudal regimes were to be overthrown, and how socialism could be established given the lack of economic prerequisites. Trotsky argued that in Russia only the working class could overthrow feudalism winning the support of the peasantry, but that the working class would not stop there. It would seize the moment to go on to win its own revolution against the weak capitalist class, establishing a workers’ state, and appeal to the working class in the advanced capitalist countries to come to its aid, so that socialism could develop in Russia and worldwide.

The capitalist or bourgeois-democratic revolution

Revolutions in Britain in the 17th Century and in France in 1789 abolished feudalism, establishing the basic requisites for the development of capitalism. But Trotsky argues that these revolutions would not be repeated in Russia. In Results and Prospects, written in 1906, in which Trotsky outlines his theory in detail, he argues: “History does not repeat itself. However much one may compare the Russian Revolution with the Great French Revolution, the former can never be transformed into a repetition of the latter.” In the French Revolution of 1789, France experienced what Marxists called a “bourgeois-democratic revolution” – a regime was established where the “bourgeoisie”, (the French term approximating to “capitalists”), overthrew feudalism. The bourgeoisie then moved towards establishing a regime of “democratic” parliamentary institutions. But while democratic rights were extended to the bourgeoisie they did not, however, generally extend to a universal franchise, let alone to the freedom for workers to organise unions or to go on strike, without a considerable struggle by the working class.

But, Trotsky argues, countries like Russia had no “enlightened, active” revolutionary bourgeoisie which could play the same role, and the working class constituted a very small minority. In fact, even by the time of the European revolutions of 1848, Trotsky argued, “the bourgeoisie was already unable to play a comparable role. It did not want and was not able to undertake the revolutionary liquidation of the social system that stood in its path to power.”

Weakness of the capitalists

The theory of Permanent Revolution considers that in many countries which are thought to have not yet completed their bourgeois-democratic revolution, the capitalist class oppose the creation of any revolutionary situation, in the first instance because they fear stirring the working class into fighting for its own revolutionary aspirations against their exploitation by capitalism. In Russia the working class, although a small minority in a predominantly peasant based society, were organised in vast factories owned by the capitalist class, in large working class districts. During the Russian Revolution of 1905, the capitalist class found it necessary to ally with reactionary elements such as the essentially feudal landlords and ultimately the existing Czarist Russian state forces, in order to protect their ownership of their property, in the form of the factories, banks, and so forth, from expropriation by the revolutionary working class.

According to the theory of Permanent Revolution, therefore, in economically backward countries the capitalist class are weak and incapable of carrying through revolutionary change. They are linked to and rely on the feudal landowners in many ways. Trotsky further argues that since a majority of branches of industry in Russia were originated under the direct influence of government measures, sometimes even with the help of Government subsidies, the capitalist class was again tied to the ruling elite. In addition, the capitalist class were subservient to European capital.

The working class steps in

Instead, Trotsky argued, only the ‘proletariat’ or working class were capable of achieving the tasks of that ‘bourgeois’ revolution. In 1905, the working class in Russia, a generation brought together in vast factories from the relative isolation of peasant life, saw the result of its labour as a vast collective effort, and the only means of struggling against its oppression in terms of a collective effort also, forming workers councils (soviets), in the course of the revolution of that year. In 1906, Trotsky argued:

The factory system brings the proletariat to the foreground… The proletariat immediately found itself concentrated in tremendous masses, while between these masses and the autocracy there stood a capitalist bourgeoisie, very small in numbers, isolated from the ‘people’, half-foreign, without historical traditions, and inspired only by the greed for gain. – Trotsky, Results and Prospects

The Putilov Factory, for instance, numbered 12,000 workers in 1900, and, according to Trotsky, 36,000 in July 1917. The theory of Permanent Revolution considers that the peasantry as a whole cannot take on this task, because it is dispersed in small holdings throughout the country, and forms a heterogeneous grouping, including the rich peasants who employ rural workers and aspire to landlordism as well as the poor peasants who aspire to own more land. Trotsky argues: “All historical experience… shows that the peasantry are absolutely incapable of taking up an independent political role.”

Trotskyists differ on the extent to which this is true today, but even the most orthodox tend to recognise in the late twentieth century a new development in the revolts of the rural poor, the self-organising struggles of the landless, and many other struggles which in some ways reflect the militant united organised struggles of the working class, and which to various degrees do not bear the marks of class divisions typical of the heroic peasant struggles of previous epochs. However, orthodox Trotskyists today still argue that the town and city based working class struggle is central to the task of a successful socialist revolution, linked to these struggles of the rural poor. They argue that the working class learns of necessity to conduct a collective struggle, for instance in trade unions, arising from its social conditions in the factories and workplaces, and that the collective consciousness it achieves as a result is an essential ingredient of the socialist reconstruction of society.

Although only a small minority in Russian society, the proletariat would lead a revolution to emancipate the peasantry and thus “secure the support of the peasantry” as part of that revolution, on whose support it will rely. But the working class, in order to improve their own conditions, will find it necessary to create a revolution of their own, which would accomplish both the bourgeois and then establish a workers’ state.

International revolution

Yet, according to classical Marxism, revolution in peasant based countries, such as Russia, prepares the ground ultimately only for a development of capitalism since the liberated peasants become small owners, producers and traders which leads to the growth of commodity markets, from which a new capitalist class emerges. Only fully developed capitalist conditions prepare the basis for socialism.

Trotsky agreed that a new socialist state and economy in a country like Russia would not be able to hold out against the pressures of a hostile capitalist world, as well as the internal pressures of its backward economy. The revolution, Trotsky argued, must quickly spread to capitalist countries, bringing about a socialist revolution which must spread world-wide. But this position was shared by all Marxists until 1924 when Stalin began to put forward the slogan of “Socialism in one country”.

In this way the revolution is “permanent”, moving of necessity first from the bourgeois revolution to the workers’ revolution, and from there uninterruptedly to European and world-wide revolutions. Socialism until then had always seen capitalism as an international enemy to be replaced internationally.

Origins of the term

An internationalist outlook of permanent revolution is found in the works of Karl Marx. The term “permanent revolution” is taken from a remark of Marx from his March 1850 Address: “it is our task”, Marx said,

to make the revolution permanent until all the more or less propertied classes have been driven from their ruling positions, until the proletariat has conquered state power and until the association of the proletarians has progressed sufficiently far – not only in one country but in all the leading countries of the world – that competition between the proletarians of these countries ceases and at least the decisive forces of production are concentrated in the hands of the workers. – Marx, Address of the Central Committee to the Communist League.

Introduction to Leninism

Posted in Left wing Ideology with tags on July 25, 2008 by parimon

Here is a little education about what leninism is for some of you ignorant bastards that are to busy to learn anything because you are watching jerry springer.

In his pamphlet What is to be Done? (1902), Lenin argued that the proletariatcan only achieve a successful revolutionary consciousness through the efforts of a vanguard party composed of full-time professional revolutionaries. Lenin further believed that such a party could only achieve its aims through a form of disciplined organization known as democratic centralism, wherein tactical and ideological decisions are made with internal democracy, but once a decision has been made, all party members must externally support and actively promote that decision.

Leninism holds that capitalism can only be overthrown by revolutionary means; that is, any attempts to reform capitalism from within, such as Fabianism and non-revolutionary forms of democratic socialism, are doomed to fail. The goal of a Leninist party is to orchestrate the overthrow of the existing government by force and seize power on behalf of the proletariat (although in the October Revolution of 1917, the Soviets seized power, not the Bolshevik Party), and then implement a dictatorship of the proletariat. The party must then use the powers of government to educate the proletariat, so as to remove the various modes of false consciousness the bourgeois have instilled in them in order to make them more docile and easier to exploit economically, such as religion and nationalism.

The dictatorship of the proletariat is theoretically to be governed by a decentralized system of proletarian direct democracy, in which workers hold political power through local councils known as soviets.  The extent to which the dicatorship of the proletariat is democratic is disputed. Lenin wrote in the fifth chapter of ‘State & Revolution’:

Democracy for the vast majority of the people, and suppression by force, i.e., exclusion from democracy, of the exploiters and oppressors of the people–this is the change democracy undergoes during the transition from capitalism to communism.

The elements of Leninism that include the notion of the disciplined revolutionary, the more dictatorial revolutionary state and of a war between the various social classes is often attributed to the influence of Nechayevschina and of the 19th century narodnik movement (of which Lenin’s older brother was a member) – “The morals of [the Bolshevik] party owed as much to Nechayvasas they did to Marx” writes historian Orlando Figes.  This would help explain the traces of class bigotry (e.g. Lenin’s frequent description of the bourgeoisie as parasites, insects, leeches, bloodsuckers etc  and the creation of the GULAG system of concentration camps for former members of the bourgeois and kulak classes ) detectable in Leninism but foreign in Marxism. Well thats it for this lesson next time I will explain the most hated socialist ideology by communist, Trotskyism.