10 comments on “New Book on Marxism and Democracy

  1. First of all, I want to apologize to the Indian comrades for certain aspects of my outburst which were, for the most part, overwhelmingly motivated by my frustrations within the American Trotskyist milleau, both those associated with the 1960s-1970s SWP tradition and the sectarian splinters that their abandonment of class struggle politics spawned. The former used abstract “democracy” to tail after the counter-revolution when it swept over the former Soviet bloc countries while the latter use “internationalism” as an excuse for irrelevancy in their “own” country. I did not mean to imply that the Indian comrades did the same; especially after reading their scathing indictment of the mostly American petty bourgeois “progressive” superstars apologia for the Indian Stalinists and their Popular Front repression of agrarian rebellion. It appears that they are trying to import their methodology of “Anybody But Bush” that proved so destructive to the US anti-war movement in 2004 to India. Not surprisingly, Tariq Ali, who was once someone that I also looked up to as a Trotskyist firebrand, is now supporting Barack “Bomb Pakistan” Obama just as he supported John “40,000 more troops in Iraq” Kerry in 2004 as the “lesser evil.”

    I also did not mean to imply that I thought that since “the Trotskyists failed…they are useless.” What I did mean is that in the three countries that Trotskyism succeeded in building fairly large oragnaizations with sizeable influence they made serious blunders akin to those committed by the reformists. We are all familiar with the LSSP’s joining the bourgeois SFLP government in Sri Lanka in 1964 and the Bolivian POR’s tailing after the bourgeois MNR during the revolution there in 1953. In Vietnam, after leading a heroic revolt against the occupation of their country by the troops of Anglo-French imperialism, the Trotskyists surrendered, without a shot being fired, to the Stalinist VietMinh sealing their doom. While these fiascoes are small potatoes compared to the damage caused by Stalinism and Social Democracy on a global scale, they do show that even “Trotskyist” groups with the “correct program” fail as well. I seriously doubt that the Indian comrades with disagree with that.

    As for worshipping the success of Mao, Tito and, I should have added Castro, I think that we would all agree, that as Marxists, we should judge people by what they do and not just by what they say. In Yugoslavia, China and Cuba, parties and leaders, who were not Trotskyists, and in the first two cases, came out of the Stalinized Comintern, successfully led socialist revolutions, in spite of, and in opposition to, Stalin himself. They established, what we would agree were, workers states, albeit thoroughly bureaucratized ones. Thus they represented tremendous gains for the workers and peasants of those countries and for the world revolution as a whole in spite of their “authoritarian pseudocommunist” attempts to create “socialism in one country” in countries even more backward than Stalin’s Russia. While to us they certainly are not models of what a post-revolutionary society should look like, they still seem to attract a fair amount of admirers in your part of the world.

    As for the main bone of contention; yes, I do think that the isolation and subsequent degeneration of the Russian Revolution was primarily “the fault of the Social Democrats” for not overthrowing the bourgeoisie in Germany, Austria and Italy after WWI. The international expansion of the revolution to relatively advanced, industrialized countries in central and Southern Europe could have rendered valuable aid and assistance to an isolated revolution so that it was not forced to resort to such desperate measures. While I agree with you that banning factions, just like banning the other left-wing parties that respected Soviet legality, were mistakes not to be emulated, today’s reformists prefer to let their predecessors off the hook and concentrate all their fire on the Bolsheviks. It certainly goes with the flow of “Leninism leading to Stalinism” that is so popular in the bourgeois academic circles they take their cues from.

    Unfortunately this also holds true for those in the USFI, who were so taken aback by the collapse of Stalinism that they wound up joining the “Leninism leads to Stalinism” chorus as well. Some of them bemoaned the dispersal of the counter-revolutionary Constituent Assembly in 1918 and began to blur the differences between bourgeois and proletarian democracy. This is a tendency more confined to imperialist countries where the left is far more susceptible to the pressures of bourgeois “public opinion” then they are in the Third World where the contradictions of capitalism are far more blatant and less mediated by the niceties of bourgeois “democracy” and “civil society.”

    All of these questions surrounding what was called “Leninism in power” basically stem from the proletariat taking power in underdeveloped countries where it was a minority in an ocean of peasants and having to carry out a combined revolution. Today the working class is a majority in most countries of the world. All of the countries where the socialist revolution triumphed were not only underdeveloped, Czechoslovakia being the most advanced, but, except for Cuba, war-ravaged, as well. They were all confronted with a scale of scarcity that made bureaucratization almost inevitable in the absence of workers democracy. In other words, these are problems that are unlikely to arise in the countries where they are constantly being raised by various leftists as an excuse not to dabble in revolutionary politics. Most of those on the left in the US and Europe who dig up these “old debates” do so because they have no desire to see “a communist movement that is revolutionary as well as democratic” or, for that matter, any “communist movement” at all. The reformists prefer to focus on the sins of past revolutions to get within the good graces of their own ruling classes, the sectarians find “old debates” a substitute for dealing with new ones we need to waging. I did not mean to imply that you belonged to either.

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  2. By the way, Marik is a reasonably well known activist, and does not spend all her time writing thick books about the past. She is opposed to the fake left ruling West Bengal, and internationally projecting itself as anti-imperialist, and has been involved in struggles against SEZs in West Bengal, violation of democratic rights of working people, but of course, it is better to pretend she only writes expensive books that workers cannot buy, all the better to trash the book without engaging with its contents

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  3. I might have taken on a pseudonym like Saumen Tagore, but felt it point less. The new edition of M.N. Roy makes as little sense as the original. Roy’s arguments are:
    1. It was all teh fault of the Socuia Democrats
    2. The Trotskyists failed so they are useless. Whoever succeeds is to be worshipped.

    From this it might follow that since globalization under imperialist aegis has succeeded we should drop dead. if we do not accept this premise,then we also canot accept the view that old debates are useless. Those who ail Mao and tito will be advocating renewed authoritarian pseudocommunist politics. If we want to build a communist movement that is revolutionary as well as democratic, we need to look at the past experiences.

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  4. Yeah, we most definitely need theory…on how to make a revolution where we are in the here on now, not on how the only party that you and your ex-ortho-Trot buddies think made a revolution may have screwed up. Arguing about whether the Bolshies went bad in 1921 or 1923 or what have you is about as relevant as arguing about what year the Yankees started stinking in the 1960s. Place the blame where it belongs…on European Social Democracy for leaving the Ruskies in the cold by not taking power in Germany, Austria and Italy after WWI. I, for one, have had more than my share in the course of the past 30 years, of comrades who use “internationalism” as an excuse for being utterly irrelavnt in their own countries. As for the Trots in Vietnam, Bolivia, Sri Lanka, etc., however heroic they were, they all failed just as miserably as did the Stalinists and the Social Democrats. At least Tito and Mao knew how to overthrow the bourgeoisie.

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  5. I haven’t read the book yet, but having read much from comrade Marik I can say that I look forward to it; she always makes me think whether I agree with her or not. MN Roy conflates bourgeois and workers democracy. Soma Marik does not.

    Does comrade Roy propose that workers don’t need their democracy both in the struggle for power and in the exercise of their dictatorship? Is socialism possible without workers’ democracy?

    Does comrade Roy think that we don’t need any more “theory” or discussions? Is a revolution possible without contextualizing and generalizing our experiences? Or is theory fine for comrade Roy, but wasted on Indian workers who should only worry about putting “curry on the table”?

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  6. @ MN Roy: as you probably know, “trotskyist” parties were/are relatively strong e.g. in Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Bolivia, Mexico, Argentine … in India (as in other parts of the world like several guevarist groups in Latin America) you had parties like the RCPI or the RSP which asked similar questions and got similar answers … and questions

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  7. Gee, I’ll bet there must be millions of Indian workers and peasants who are just dying to know what year “democracy” went under in Soviet Russia and who will save every last rupee they can to pay the 100.00 or so that this book costs. After all, this kind of stuff really relates to their experiences of exploitation and oppression under “democratic” capitalism in India. No wonder Trotskyism has such a mass following in the Third World and workers and peasants are unfortunately still looking to the Maoists for leadership. By the way how much curry will “democracy” put on anybody’s plate. As for me, I still prefer comrade Mauser.

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