See also : Trot Guide September 2018 Update.
Gosh and bother and tish and fiffle: it’s been just over four years since I last formally updated Trot Guide (April 10, 2012). At that stage I counted a mere fifteen political organisations on the far left — mostly Trotskyist in orientation. The Bad News is that it appears that at least two of these organisations are now extinct; the Good News is that at least two more have emerged — and that’s just in the last few months!
1. The Alliance for Workers’ Liberty (AWL) is still kicking. Its March 2016 newsletter [PDF] contains an account of ‘Fighting fascism in Australia’ by Riki Lane, which concludes ‘All the approaches taken – counter demonstrations; getting unions to take a better stand; broad anti-racist organising – need to be pursued and coordinated. A useful approach could be to build a broader coalition of all the existing groups on a national basis. The key however, is to get the organised labour movement active in fighting this threat.’ Ho hum. The group appears to be strongest in Brisbane, with supporters in Canberra, Melbourne and Sydney.
2. The Communist League (CL) is also still kicking, though one suspects it would struggle to field a football team. 5-a-side, maybe? For reasons which escape me, the CL was invited to attend the anarchist bookfair in Melbourne in 2012, but I don’t think they’ve been back. In any case, you can subscribe to The Militant and buy their titles from their office in Sydney. PS. The indefatigable Ron Poulsen scored 148 votes in his tilt at a seat in the Senate at the 2013 federal election.
3. The Communist Party of Australia (CPA) remains steadfast in its commitment to Communism, which in the last few years has also managed to find expression at the ballot box. Sadly, The Communists were de-registered by the AEC in May 2012 ‘because the party failed to prove it still had 500 members eligible for enrolment’. That said, the Communists are still keen to contest, so ‘If you’re on the electoral roll and would be prepared to help out, please contact us at [email protected] or ring Bob Briton on 0418 894 366’. What else can be said? Well, they still heart Stalin, and you can read a recent (October 2015) apologia for his rule (by Rob Gowland) in The Worker’s Weekly — Anti-Soviet propaganda and Stalin (Part 1) and Cold War propaganda offensive (Part 2). Strongest in NSW, the CPA has a presence in Adelaide, Brisbane, Darwin, Melbourne and Perth.
PS. A Comrade wishes to make a correction re the ‘Communist Alliance’, ‘The Communists’ and the CPA. Thus according to CPA General Secretary Hannah Middleton (June 2012): ‘The Communists (originally called the Communist Alliance) was an electoral alliance of which the CPA was one part [emphasis mine], together with migrant [Greek, Latin American, Lebanese, Sri Lankan] Communist parties and progressive individuals from around Australia. The Communist Party of Australia supported the Communist Alliance (CA) because it united a range of left political forces to fight for real change. The Communist Alliance was registered as a party on March 16, 2009. A legal challenge from the Community Alliance [emphasis mine], a conservative group in Canberra, forced the CA to change its name to the Communists. This group did not manage to meet the requirement that it update its membership list in time and was recently deregistered by the Australian Electoral Commission.’
4. The Communist Party of Australia (Marxist-Leninist) (CPA-ML) has had some troubles adapting to the twenty-first century. In Bad news for spotters, the organisation suspended publication of its newspaper, Vanguard, in 2014, the last print edition appearing in December 2014 [PDF]. First published in 1963, inter alia, ‘The decision to go fully online has been made in recognition of the fact that most young people use the internet as their primary source of news and communication’. Duncan B. writes: ‘I still have a copy of the very first Vanguard published over fifty-one years ago in September 1963. It is interesting to read the editorial of the first Vanguard. Under the heading “Why Vanguard is Published”, the editorial says, “The publication of Vanguard is an historic event. It is now the only paper which upholds the universal truth of Marxism-Leninism. The paper has a big and noble job to do. Its main task will be to give a Marxist-Leninist analysis of the major events of our time.”’ See also : The Explosion Point of Ideology in China (1967) / China: reading guide (libcom). The CPA (M-L) may be contacted through the Vanguard at PO Box 196, Fitzroy, Victoria, Australia 3065 or via email ([email protected]).
5. Feminism + Trotskyism = Freedom Socialist Party (FSP). The FSP is based in Melbourne and maintains a shopfront called Solidarity Salon on Sydney Road, Brunswick. Steady as she goes …
6. NEW! ML Group (MLG). The MLG (Marxist-Leninist Group) announced its existence online in a post on the MLG blog titled ULTRA-NATIONALISM, RACISM AND BIGOTRY ARE NO SOLUTION. WORKERS CAN DEFEAT FASCISM! ALL OUT ON APRIL 4! Alright! You can read the MLG’s PROSPECTUS! and its CONSTITUTION! and much, much more on its blog.
7. Formed in November 1996, the Progressive Labour Party (PLP) doesn’t appear to have made much progress since 2012. They still have a website, however, and will no doubt be active at the 2016 federal election. The party seems most active in Newcastle, NSW. In 2013, it endorsed Susanna Scurry, who ran as an independent for the federal seat of Newcastle and scored 1,026 votes (1.2%) for her troubles.
8. Resistance, 2012: ‘Nominally independent yoof wing of SA’. 2016: Resistance: Young Socialist Alliance. See also : Successful #RadicalIdeas2015 conference.
9. The Revolutionary Socialist Party is no more. It has ceased to be. It’s expired and gone to meet its maker (etc., etc., etc.). Formed as a split from the DSP (now SA) in 2008, ‘At its final congress on 28 March 2013, the RSP voted unanimously to merge with Socialist Alternative’. See also : RSP and SAlt, Old-Style Opportunism: “Death of Communism” Lash-up, Australasian Spartacist, No. 219, Autumn 2013.
10. The Socialist Alliance (SA) was founded in 2001, has had many ups and downs, and is the organisation into which the Democratic Socialist Party finally dissolved itself in 2010 (being essentially the only group remaining within the Alliance). The intervening four years appear not to have witnessed any growth in SA, the organisation seemingly having been eclipsed by SAlt, but its support is arguably more geographically spread than SAlt’s, having contacts in every capital city and many regional centres. Currently, SA boasts two local councillors (Sue Bolton in Moreland and Sam Wainwright in Fremantle), produces the Green Left Weekly newspaper and is having a conference in Sydney in May titled Socialism For The 21st Century. SA will also be fielding candidates at the 2016 federal election. PS. Two formal tendencies have emerged within SA in the last year or so: ‘The Witches’ (?!) of Adelaide (May 2015) and ‘The 21st Century Socialism Tendency’ (April 2016).
11. Socialist Alternative (SAlt) is almost certainly the largest organisation in this edition of Trot Guide, just as it was in 2012. SAlt benefited from the absorption of the RSP in 2012/2013, while it’s yet to produce a splinter. Occasionally compared to a political kvlt by some of its harsher critics, I semi-seriously examined the claim in June 2013 and concluded that the answer was ‘no’. A highly critical account of the organisation is provided by Liam Donohoe in ‘My Salty Summer’ (Honi Soit, March 15, 2016). PS. Apologies to the SAlt member who waxed lyrical to me about the party and its many activities some months or years ago when I last made noises about updating the Guide.
12. The Socialist Equality Party (SEP) AKA The International Committee of the Fourth International modestly describes itself as the ‘leadership of the world socialist movement’ and frequently disparages its rivals (mostly SA and SAlt) as ‘pseudo-left’. The yoof wing of the SEP — International Youth and Students for Social Equality (IYSSE) — has been engaged in a ding-dong battle with various University authorities over the last few years, including at Melbourne, where a bunch of kids on the Clubs and Societies Committee have failed to recognise the world-historical mission of the IYSSE/SEP/ICFI and refused to allow its supporters there to formally register as a Club. To add insult to injury, the sneaky little yuppies have even had the temerity to suggest that the junior members of the local branch of the leadership of the world socialist movement join the SAlt Club instead! The SEP frequently contests elections and will do so again at the 2016 federal election.
13. The Socialist Party (SP) was, until very recently, steady-as-she-goes. In February 2016, however, 14 members of the party — including Yarra councillor Steve Jolly — decamped, publishing an open letter alleging that the SP was guilty of engaging in a ‘cover-up of allegations of violence against women’ and stating that they ‘will not remain complicit in the silencing of victims of abuse’. The SP, for its part, issued a rebuttal, which you can read here. The folks who resigned from the SP are still flying the red flag as part of something called ‘The Socialist’; the SP remains mostly a Melbourne thing.
14. Solidarity remains the Official representative of the International Socialist Tendency Down Under. Blogger John Passant is a member, while Jim Casey, the Greens candidate for the seat of Grayndler in NSW, was attacked earlier this year for his former membership of the ‘International Socialists’, the group out of which, by various permutations and combinations, Solidarity formed and which stands in the IS tradition. Solidarity may be found in Brisbane, Canberra and Perth but mostly Melbourne and Sydney. See also : Marching Down Marx Street by Tom O’Lincoln on the history of the Cliffite tendency in Australia.
15. The Spartacist League of Australia AKA International Communist League (Fourth Internationalist) is ace and grouse and my personal favourite Trot group. It has members in Melbourne and Sydney and calls the SEP ‘Political Bandits’ and ‘Scab Socialists’, SAlt ‘Cheerleaders for Capitalist Counterrevolution’ and so on and so forth.
16. NEW! Formed as a split from the SP, The Socialist is The Title of The Newest socialist kid on the bloc. The Socialist has a Marxism study group, a socialist-feminist study group and an uncertain future.
17. Trotskyist Platform (TP) split from The Spartacists over a decade ago. TP hates fascism and racism almost as much as it hearts North Korea — which is A Lot. You can read about The Planks on Which Trotskyist Platform Can Stand Solid And Work Hard to Help Build The Communist Movement here and also An Eyewitness Account of North Korea and Its People: Bravely Building a Friendly, Socialistic Society While in the Cross Hairs of Imperialism here. PS. TP write ‘Though we in Trotskyist Platform have sharply differing political views to the anarchist who runs the Slackbastard blog and who has initiated the 2nd May  counter-mobilisation to the fascist threat, we applaud the initiative he has taken and are thus actively building this action.’
Which I think is probably the only mention, let alone props, I’ve been given by any of the above groups in over 10 years of blogging … LOL.
• ‘Trot Guide’ is a neat categorisation but the political designation does not obviously, apply to the CPA, CPA-ML, MLG or PLP.
• Despite a hopeful sign in March 2013, the League for the Revolutionary Party/Communist Organization for the Fourth International (Australia) appears to have closed its post office box in North Melbourne.
• SA and SEP will be fielding candidates in the upcoming federal election; fingers crossed, so will the CPA, CL, PLP, SP and maybe even The Socialist will run.
• The online archive at Reason in Revolt has a range of documents on Australian socialist and radical groups: ‘Reason in Revolt brings together primary source documents of Australian radicalism as a readily accessible digitised resource. By ‘radical’ we refer to those who aimed to make society more equal and to emancipate the exploited or oppressed. Reason in Revolt is an expanding record of the movements, institutions, venues and publications through which radicals sought to influence Australian society.’
BONUS! ☭☭☭☭☭COMMUNISM WILL WIN☭☭☭☭☭
Communism Will Win in Australia. See also : Aussie Anarchist Meme Squat.
No catalogue of the workers’ vanguards is complete without inclusion of the organisation to which I am federated, the Antinomian Revolutionary Structuralists and Existentialists (A.R.S.E.). We firmly support the revolutionary workers’ state in North Korea and we’re involved in orchestrating the glorious comeback of Comrade Fidel Castro to the leadership of all Party and State organisations in Cuba, regardless of Comrade Fidel’s physical and mental afflictions. We also fully support the Melbourne Anarchist Communist Group and look forward to participating in a number of important revolutionary actions with them in future.
The Socialist’ website has posts going back at least four years, after a quick peruse. Holdover articles from SP (which they’d surely be sore about) or have the rebels melted into a preexisting group?
It is impossible to support both the hereditary monarchy of the Hermit Kingdom (officially styling itself as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) and the Melbourne Anarchist Communist Group – at least while having a modicum of understanding about both.
If Comrade Verkhovensky has some criticisms of the MACG (as the tone of her/his post would indicate), I would be pleased to debate them.
Fraternal greetings, Comrade Ablokeimet!
As you know, when one embarks on the glorious road to Communism, one encounters many naysayers, bourgeois shit-heads, reactionaries and frivolous types who just don’t give a stuff. This can make the building of the road to paradise something of a tough slog. Even during those historical periods when the star of Communism is on the rise, it only influences a relatively small proportion of a population and for a limited period of time. For this reason, Communist fanatics like us, whether we march on the libertarian road or the authoritarian road, eventually discover the necessity of having to smash square pegs into round holes in order to get results. Thus, while one may begin with libertarian methods, one ends up in North Korea.
Thanks for updating the trot guide @ndy!
Spotters of Australia and the world salute you.
Comrade Verkhovensky: “Thus, while one may begin with libertarian methods, one ends up in North Korea.”
Not if we continue with libertarian methods. I, for one, have pondered long about post-revolutionary tactics and concluded that we cannot afford to depart from principled behaviour. The example of Russia constitutes a convincing proof.
During the course of the Civil War in Russia, the leaders of the Bolsheviks convinced their followers (both the Party rank & file and enough of the wider working class) that the survival of the Revolution depended on adopting certain tyrannical methods. Usually this choice was made in the context of particular cases, each revolving around particular compromises with political principle in the face of particular dangers. By the Party Congress of 1921, however, all opposition groups had been banned, as had internal factions within the Party. The Bolshevik leadership were legally unremovable.
The fundamental reason that the Bolshevik leaders got away with this is that the Party rank and file and sufficient layers of the wider working class were convinced that the alternative was a bloodbath. What followed the overthrow of the Soviets would have been the aftermath of the Paris Commune writ large. The killings would have been monumental and, as Trotsky said, Fascism would have been a Russian word rather than an Italian one. In order to prevent this, and often against their better judgement, the Bolshivik rank and file and the bulk of the working class conceded to the abolition of Soviet democracy. It was an understandable decision.
What has convinced me that, despite this, the decision should have been resisted and, in any future post-revolutionary situation, it is imperative to stick to principle even facing the threat of counter-revolution, is that the bloodbath in Russia happened anyway. And it happened in the worst possible manner – it was committed in the name of the Revolution. The bloody murder of the revolutionaries of 1917-21, and many more, was conducted by Stalin as he consolidated power after finally seeing Trotsky off in 1928. The result was that the global revolutionary movement was destroyed (in the USSR physically and in the rest of the world through political disorientation) and the world witnessed the establishment of a monstrous regime whose most significant and lasting achievement has been to discredit the very idea of communism in the eyes of most of the working class.
We have to stick to our libertarian principles, despite all temptations to the contrary, because when you deal with the Devil, you don’t sell your soul – you give it away.
ablokeimet analysis of the fate of the Soviet Union is correct – because it never ends, and therefore there are only means.
Although I will take issue with the description of North Korea as a “hereditary monarchy”. I believe that a more accurate description is of Juche theocratic system is a “necrocracy”, given the formal inclusion of an Eternal President (Kim Il-sung, d 1994) and an Eternal General Secretary (Kim Jong-il d.2011).
Apologies to thee, Comrade Ablokeimet, your reply escaped my attention until a few moments ago.
Your commitment to principle is a sweet and touching thing, especially given that, in a revolutionary situation, when all is storm and stress around thee, the victory of the practical, the unprincipled, and the power-seeking can pretty much be assured. Unfortunately, your good self, like the martyrs of old, will be swept away into oblivion, into that now well-populated dustbin of history.
I, on the other hand, Comrade Ablokeimet, being of a practical and unprincipled disposition, will ascend to the top of the dungheap of history, where the vapours may be strong but the view is exhilarating.
Note to readers: Before reaching a conclusion about what I’m saying, read my argument the whole way through. If you stop half way, you’ll get a very misleading impression.
Comrade Verkhovensky: “Unfortunately, your good self, like the martyrs of old, will be swept away into oblivion, into that now well-populated dustbin of history.”
Certainly Comrade Verkhovensky’s cynical and pessimistic view of human nature is common, but I also believe it is misplaced. The October Revolution in Russia would not have happened at all if social processes work like he thinks it does. Instead, there was a great amount of idealism and revolutionary commitment that made the October Revolution possible and kept it going, in very adverse circumstances, for a couple of years further.
What brought the Russian Revolution undone? Two factors, one objective and the other subjective.
1. The objective factor was the extreme unreadiness of Russia for socialism. The forces of production were vastly too limited. Indeed, the Mensheviks argued that this very factor made the October Revolution inadvisable and impossible to carry through to the victory of socialism. The Bolsheviks, however, had an answer to that. They didn’t dispute Russia’s low level of industrial development, nor did they say it didn’t matter. What they said was that, while Russia wasn’t ready for socialism, Europe was, and the Russian Revolution would be the opening chapter of the World Revolution.
What the Anarchists at the time had to say about that debate is something that I don’t know. My opinion, though, is that the Bolsheviks were right on that point. The problem is, however, that the World Revolution never triumphed beyond Russia. The Hungarian Revolution only lasted 4 months, Italy missed its opportunity in 1920 and Germany missed two opportunities – 1919 & 1923. The missed opportunities in Germany were particularly important, since Germany’s size, wealth and central location meant that a successful revolution there would have been a complete game-changer. Russia’s isolation would have been overcome and the working class would have been in control of productive forces vastly more advanced than before.
In the absence of the spreading of the Revolution internationally, the Russian Revolution was doomed. Lenin & Trotsky knew that and said it frequently. It was only with the rise to power of Stalin, after the failure of the German Revolution of 1923, that the invalid and mendacious theory of Socialism in One Country was propounded.
2. The subjective factor was the authoritarian approach of the Bolsheviks themselves. The Bolsheviks, and most especially their primary leaders Lenin & Trotsky, brought the Revolution undone through the way they went about defending it. In essence, they considered it vital to defend the Revolution from the working class itself. This played out disastrously in two ways – internally & externally.
(a) Things started going wrong on the very first day – though only the Anarchists would have been able to spot it, and then only in terms of understanding what would follow from the decisions made, rather than in the substantive policies adopted.
At the start of the first day of the Second All-Russian Congress of Soviets, the Provisional Military Committee of the Petrograd Soviet announced that the Provisional Government had been dissolved and that the Soviets were now the sole power in the land. The Congress of Soviets took up the power, something that was not a mistake. The problem came with a decision later on – to appoint a Council of People’s Commissars to act as an executive Cabinet over the Soviets. In doing, so, the Congress disregarded the lesson that Marx drew from the Paris Commune, where he saw that a prime virtue of the Commune was that it was a working body, combining the legislative & executive functions in itself. By establishing the Council of People’s Commissars, the Soviets were separating the legislative & executive functions, requiring the establishment of a hierarchy of power in order to ensure that the decisions of the Congress were carried out.
The other thing that went wrong right at the beginning was centralisation, with the All Russia Congress of Soviets assuming central authority over regional & local Soviets. Once again, this meant establishing a hierarchy of power to ensure that the All Russia Congress could exercise its authority. The proper approach would have been to use consistent federalism, with factory, neighbourhood & village assemblies sending delegates to local soviets, which were autonomous but federated to form regional soviets, which in turn federated nationally while retaining their own autonomy. All these bodies would have retained the combination of executive & legislative power in themselves, exercising it within their respective spheres, and retained their character as working bodies. This would have acted as a strong preventative for the establishment of a State bureaucracy (which, in the circumstances, inevitably modelled itself on the Czarist bureaucracy). If there was a case for establishing various persons as a People’s Commissar for This or a People’s Commisar for That, the Commissars should have been responsible individually to the Soviets for the fulfillment of their mandates. Under no circumstances should they have been authorised to meet together and decide amongst themselves matters which should have been the preserve of the Soviets.
The authoritarian structures which were established in Russia were made inevitable by those two fundamental decisions – decisions which were probably taken with hardly anybody understanding their significance. They meant, however, that the power of the Soviets was experienced by the workers and peasants of individual workplaces, villages and even Soviet Republics, as an external imposition, rather than as the organic expression of their own power. What was, in conception, a workers’ State, was in practice a State over and above the workers. Further, this State experienced the same self-activity of the working class that made the Revolution in the first place as chaotic and as rebellion against the so-called Workers’ State. As it grew, the new State apparatus, therefore, worked to extinguish all independent initiative from the working class. If that required violence and police repression, then that’s what it used.
As time wore on, and the pressure of the Civil War grew great, the police measures of the new State became more pronounced. They also, because of the dissent they engendered, led to democracy in the Soviets being curtailed, most clearly by the banning of parties which would compete with the Bolsheviks. While one may debate whether this or that particular measure was justified in the circumstances (remember the Civil War – the very survival of the Revolution was in question and everybody knew the bloodbath that would follow if the Whites triumphed), the overall effect was to remove the ability of the working class to express a disagreement with the Bolshevik Party. This culminated in the 1921 Congress of the Bolshevik Party, where, amongst other things, the Party formally banned all other parties (including the Menshevik Internationalists of Julius Martov, who had stuck scrupulously to Soviet legality and never given the Bolsheviks an excuse to ban them) and proceeded to ban internal factions as well, so that not even the Bolshevik rank & file could organise to change their leadership.
The point here is that the Bolshevik leadership, who undoubtedly desired in their own way to defend the Revolution, were actually the primary agents in strangling it. Stalin’s totalitarian police State was built out of Lenin & Trotsky’s merely authoritarian one, while Stalin’s theoretical abortions and reactionary policy initiatives were made impossible to resist because he commanded the Party that Lenin & Trosky built and made an unchallengeable power. Stalin junked a lot of Lenin’s revolutionary practice, but he could do so while quoting Lenin himself to justify it.
(b) Externally, the actions of the Bolsheviks in Russia served to prevent the expansion of the Revolution across Europe. My argument is not that they were trying to prevent revolutions (Stalin did, but that came later), but the authoritarian State built by the Bolsheviks helped to discredit the revolutionary cause. Certainly, the capitalists ruling every European country, and the Social Democrats & their equivalents in those countries, were keen to discredit the Russian Revolution, but the Bolshevik repression in Russia gave them irreplaceable ammunition, far better than any lies that the capitalists could dream up.
What does all this amount to in terms of the debate between Comrade Verkhovensky and myself? First of all, every industrialised country and many developing countries (even China!) are far more developed economically than Russia was in 1917. There are still many countries not ready for socialism, but they account for a minority of humanity, while the wealth of the most advanced countries is far more than enough to outweigh them. A victorious workers’ revolution would therefore be in a vastly more favourable situation than that faced by the Russian workers in 1917. Certainly, a revolution would have been preceded by large scale economic dislocation, and the process of revolution itself would cause further dislocation, but removing capitalist economic relationships would enable a rapid build-up of production towards using the existing facilities at their full capacity. And, by delivering swiftly on the revolutionary ambitions of abolishing poverty and inequality, people (no longer the working class, since the employing class would have been abolished) would be removing the economic imperatives driving the competition to build and defend positions of power and privilege in society.
Secondly, we won’t get fooled again. Around the world, non-ruling Stalinist parties are overwhelmingly composed of old aged pensioners. Those that haven’t slid into outright social democracy are on the way out purely through the processes of human mortality. And the Trotskyists, who hoped to find themselves as the natural receptacles of working class dissatisfaction with the existing state of affairs within capitalism, are stagnating. There is a good reason for this. The experience of being in a Trotskyist party is actually a pretty strong cure for belief in Trotskyism. Their internal processes are actually less democratic than the Bolsheviks used for most of the time until 1921, while their organisational theory of democratic centralism is completely incapable of coping with the variety of opinion and consciousness in the working class today. As a result, any time a Trotskyist party starts to break out of its position of being a sect and starts to reflect the life of the most advanced sectors of the working class, the organisation explodes in dissension.
The Revolution won’t happen unless the working class builds organisations that operate according to principles that Anarchists advocate. And, once those organisations are built, the working class will use its experiences with Leninism as an inoculation against the disease of authoritarianism. The experience of Russia, which has led Comrade Verkhovensky to such a bitter and cynical conclusion, will be what prevents his cynicism from being justified in reality.
What a treatise, Comrade Ablokeimet! Not very original and not very relevant to today’s conditions but impressive nevertheless. The first several paragraphs are the standard sort of Trotskyist guff that one encounters in the rarely-read journals of organisations like the Socialist Equanimity Party, and a good part of the rest is run-o’-the-mill Bordigist guff that, these days, thankfully, one encounters almost not at all. After about paragraph 57, from sheer, excruciating boredom, I ceased reading, but am reasonably confident that it contained yet more irrelevant and inconsequential guff.
Comrade Ablokeimet, as you know, I have been a life-long Stalinist cynic, and proudly so, but these last few weeks, for reasons that are not clear to me, I felt compelled, as though by an unearthly force, to engage in a lengthy and intense period of study, reflection, rumination, self-observation and self-criticism. What resulted, Comrade Ablokeimet, was this insight: the class war has been won by capitalism and, day by day, week by week, its victory is consolidated and advanced further and further, and we have no option but to negotiate our way through this new reality.
Upon this realisation, Comrade Ablokeimet, I experienced a powerful political epiphany! At once I discarded my nefarious Stalinist ways! I submerged myself into yet another period of study, reflection, etc., etc., this time concentrating on the ways and means of anarchism. Verily, Comrade Ablokeimet, to my astonishment, I emerged a fully-formed individualist anarchist with pronounced Stirnerite qualities and dripping with generous dollops of Dada.
My motto now is ‘become free by acting free’ (excuse the poor grammar).
I hope you encounter much good fortune on your road, Comrade Ablokeimet.
“The first several paragraphs are the standard sort of Trotskyist guff that one encounters in the rarely-read journals of organisations like the Socialist Equanimity Party, and a good part of the rest is run-o’-the-mill Bordigist guff that, these days, thankfully, one encounters almost not at all.”
Yes, the first section is exactly what the Trots say. They can’t be wrong about everything, you know – unless you’re one of those whose approach is: “Trotsky said the sun rises in the East. Therefore, Anarchists must maintain it rises in the West.” Over the years, as I have gained a clearer and more precise understanding of where the differences between class struggle Anarchists and Bolsheviks lie, I have become more confident about acknowledging the areas where we agree.
Comrade V hasn’t read the second section very well, because it posits consistent federalism as the only way in which the Soviets could have been experienced by workers as the expression of their own power rather than being an alien imposition (of which they may or may not have approved). Bordiga would have had a fit if you even hinted at federalism.
“What resulted, Comrade Ablokeimet, was this insight: the class war has been won by capitalism and, day by day, week by week, its victory is consolidated and advanced further and further, and we have no option but to negotiate our way through this new reality.”
Many people have reached the same opinion as Comrade V and their error is always the same. Their analysis is restricted to the national terrain. While it may appear, by examining advanced Western countries, that the capitalists have definitively won the class war, this is an illusion caused by the fact that the vast majority of the working class are now in Third World countries. China, for example, is now majority urban and has a working class larger than the entire US population. Further, China is now strike capital of the world, with more strikes than in every Western country put together. I could go on about India, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, the Philippines and more, but I fear I might tax Comrade V’s patience.
The class struggle is not over. It has escaped into the Third World, where the workers are vastly worse off than we are here in comfortable Australia. And finally, I make a confident prediction – because capitalists are by nature insatiable, and because victory over the working class undermines consumer spending and leads to further economic crisis, it is only a matter of time until the bosses in this country start an offensive that will stun and anger everybody with its brazenness. The CPA(M-L) had a saying (virtually the only thing of value that they contributed):
If you don’t fight, you lose.
Greetings, Comrade Ablokeimet, and damn you, now you’ve got me writing treatises!
I must take issue with you as regards your suspicion that I may be one of those anarchists who finds matters Marxist to be automatically repugnant, in a Pavlovian manner, as a goodly number of anarchists do. Comrade, I stress that I am not an anarchist of this sort! Having said this, I struggle to find anything positive to say about your pal Comrade Trotsky. He certainly did possess a very fierce intelligence, an equally fierce will to power, and a megalomaniacal certainty about the future trajectory of history, as, of course, did his buddy Comrade Lenin, and much of the rest of the disaffected bourgeois intellectuals who comprised the leadership of the so-called workers’ party, the Bolsheviks. The historical irony is that the end point of all their efforts is the Putin regime.
I also found most chuckle-worthy your millenarian hope that the proletarians of the Third World — these days referred to as ‘developing countries’, as there is no longer a Second World — will rise up and bring forth the World Revolution that the Bolsheviks failed to do because of their establishment of Sovnarkom. Comrade, leaving aside the dumb Sovnarkom-reductionism, this smacks of a revamped Third Worldism where you’ve merely substituted the proletariat for the peasantry. Really, it doesn’t matter what you do with this tired old formula, it will remain an example of the absurd wishful thinking that it always was.
While the record of past performance is no guarantee of future performance, if I were a betting man, Comrade, I would wager that the workers of the developing world will, at some future historical juncture, end up doing what workers everywhere else have done, i.e., find satisfaction in their hard-won relative affluence, in the stake that they have come to hold in the system. Of course, it will take much grief and many struggles before they reach that stage, but reach that stage they probably will.
Professional revolutionaries don’t understand that most people don’t give a shit about revolution, or, when they do, they do so for only brief periods. It is this disconnect between the millenarian fanaticism of the leaders and the practical orientation of the led that causes big problems when a revolution is unleashed. Practical anarchism is the art of expanding the boundaries of freedom, either as an individual, or in alliance with comrades, in an intelligent, directed, piecemeal kind of way. Wholesale revolutionary actions are chaotic and produce a plethora of unforeseen circumstances that then require repressive responses on the part of the ‘visionary’ leaders. I’m not aware of any revolution that has not either failed or experienced some kind of Thermidor. It has not been a great track record.
As for your theory that the bosses are going to continue screwing down the incomes of workers, this is by no means a fait accompli. There are already voices in the finance game who are pointing out that monetary policy isn’t working and that fiscal measures should be given a go. This is decidedly Keynesian talk. The bosses are practical people and will try anything to get the economy out of the doldrums, including bolstering the demand side of the equation. Time will tell.
“Having said this, I struggle to find anything positive to say about your pal Comrade Trotsky. He certainly did possess a very fierce intelligence, an equally fierce will to power …”
Trotsky is no pal of mine. While I respect his intelligence, I could not be friends with the Butcher of Kronstadt. Rather, I use his insights as a revolutionary who was at the centre of events during 1917 and who developed, in his struggle against Stalin, great insights into the beast against whom he was fighting.
Most Anarchists operate from a moral critique of the USSR – which is correct in its own terms, but insufficient in terms of understanding what Stalin was doing and why, where it would lead, and providing a course of action that could provide a road forward. In practical terms, if the Spanish Anarchists had, in 1936, been armed with Trotsky’s understanding of Stalinism (noting that it was itself inadequate because of Trotsky’s need to justify his own time in power), they would have known at the outset of the Spanish Revolution what it in fact took them two & a half years to learn – and been able to act on that knowledge.
“Comrade, leaving aside the dumb Sovnarkom-reductionism, this smacks of a revamped Third Worldism where you’ve merely substituted the proletariat for the peasantry.”
While that might be a (relatively) reasonable conclusion to reach from what I’ve said, because of the pervasiveness of Stalinist distortions of theory on the Left, it’s not a correct interpretation of what I was trying to say. In my haste, I left out some words which seem to have been necessary to Comrade V’s understanding. Third Worldism is, fundamentally, a reliance on other people’s nationalisms to produce the outcomes you want, because you have no faith in your own nationalism to suffice.
My approach is *internationalist* and takes account of the interplay between struggles in different parts of the world. What I left out is my perspective that the lull in the class struggle in the advanced capitalist countries is temporary. It has roots that are both material (i.e. globalisation) and ideological (i.e. the “death of communism”). This lull in the class struggle (on the part of the workers – the bosses have never let up) is leading to a rapid expansion of the gap between rich & poor in advanced capitalist countries. The 1% are getting far richer and, within that arbitrary category, the top 0.01% are getting richer even faster. The application of the principle of “If you don’t fight, you lose”, means that workers in advanced countries are going backwards on the whole. This will result in the compression of the gap between labour costs in advanced countries and in the Third World (a term I still like, despite the dissolution of the Second one). At some point, this compression will lead to a change in the possibilities of struggle.
Finally, the point at which the compression of labour costs in the Third World and in advanced countries leads to a change in struggle will be strongly influenced by developments in the course of the struggles going on in the Third World already. As I said before, China* is strike capital of the world already. Every recession in China since 1949, however, has been swiftly followed by a political upheaval, since an inescapable problem for all dictatorships is that everyone knows where the buck stops. The next recession in China, however, will be the end of the road for the so-called “Communist” Party, because everyone will have a universal material grievance to add to their already universal moral outrage about corruption – while the recession will cause the Party to fracture into a set of corrupt cliques on industrial and geographical lines. I can’t predict when this recession will occur, but I’m confident of what will happen when it does – and the Party knows it, too, so it is throwing everything at the economy to prevent a recession.
*As I said last time, I could go on about a range of other countries, but I refrain to shorten my essay. Did you know India is having a General Strike this month?
Comrade Ablokeimet: “Did you know India is having a General Strike this month?”
No, I did not, Comrade, and I care even less. It’s a matter that concerns me not at all. It’s wholly the business of the protagonists involved. I wish the strikers well but allow me to make a prediction: there will not be a revolutionary challenge to the system.
While theorising and soothsaying might be interesting to some, Comrade, it captivates me not a whit! I inhabit an ordinary world, a world that is not driven by semi-mystical forces towards some historical cataclysm that then resolves itself into peace and goodwill towards all.
What we can reasonably expect in the foreseeable future is the usual stuff that history has hitherto dished up, and to which we have become so well accustomed: uneven development, booms, busts, GFC-type events, and so on and so on. Note that capitalism always recovers from its crises, even the most serious ones like the Great Depression. There is nothing in the present to indicate that the future will be otherwise.
Remember, Comrade, utopian phantasms are the opiate of the radical petit-bourgeoisie and bear no fruit, at least none that is worth eating.
I bid you adieu.
A fascinating discussion in response to Comrade Slackbastard’s excellently informative article and one I feel less than qualified to comment on, but here goes. I put it to you Comrade Verkhovensky that capitalism is very short term history-wise as is the human race. Further, historical cataclysms are inevitable as science and indeed human history informs us. This being the case the only real utopian phantasm is yours, being the belief that things will, or even can, go on more or less as they are. Before they do inevitably change we had better put a bit of thought into how we best can sustainably continue. Capitalism may give a fine short term rush of apparent and blinkered ‘affluence’ for some but its long term side effects to the world on which it depends are deadly.
Greetings, Comrade Landsberg1924!
I also am not qualified to comment on matters such as the great sweep of history, and neither is anyone else I have ever encountered. Plausible analyses of events usually seem to occur in hindsight. Predictions usually never turn out as predicted.
Historical cataclysms happen, but they have a way of sneaking up on us unannounced and often unexpectedly. When revolutionary utopian movements try to intervene in these events, and attempt to direct them towards some totalizing state of perpetual social harmony, through, paradoxically, organised violence, the result usually tends to be something other than their theory had predicted.
I don’t know what will happen in the future but I do know, from historical evidence, that capitalism has an extraordinary capacity for self-regeneration, either from economic crisis or just in the ordinary course of its goings-on. Comrade Karl Marx observed this when he noted that capitalism renders all that is solid to melt into air. It constantly keeps revolutionising economic and social life and constantly keeps issuing forth new capitalist realities.
Comrade Landsberg1924, I am prepared to stick my neck out to make a prediction:
In a thousand years from now capitalism may have been transformed, by the self-activity of the plebeians, in ways that we are currently unable to foresee, into a social system that’s free of many of the negative features of capitalist life we are familiar with — or it may not.
I believe my prediction will be borne out.
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Yeah I don’t buy economic determinism either but the theory that the failure of revolutions is solely due to the terminal shortcomings of Leninism fails to account for the well documented war on democracy waged by corporatists in the name of anti-communism (a great recent example is Nick Fischer’s Spider Web: The Birth of American Anticommunism; Alex Carey’s Taking the Risk Out of Democracy is another). Think your triumphalism might be a tad premature, Verkhovensky.
Occupies an ordinary universe but here’s a thousand year prediction, love that.
‘GFC-type events’ also is laughably vague. ‘Almost tanking the global economy’ capitalism is just wacky like that