5 comments on “As The World Turns….

  1. Actually, my real motivation in proviking this exchange was that I figured if I got into some good old fashioned Trot sectarian hair-spliting I’d definately get a response out of you.

    So if “workers state” tends to “confuse(s) the issue,” I suppose we could use “post-capitalist” state instead. Mandel did so on many ocasions, so the term at least has a pedigree going for it. Likwise with the DOP. We’ve used “workers” or “workers and peasants” government instead for years. So there’s really no disagreement there.

    Nor would I advocate using the term if one were agitating or propagandizing over the latest round of nuke nonsense. As you correctly pointed out, the main point is to expose and oppose any imperialist rocket rattling against North Korea (or Iran, for that matter) rather than be diverted into arguments over the merits (or lack of them) of the regimes being threatened by Uncle Sam. Sort of like the Iraq war. Sadaam Hussein was never the issue, oil was. The imperialists and their apologists chose to focus on the former in order to avoid dealing with the latter.

    Of course there are those in the so-called “left,” whom we both know, who do, in fact, oppose not just the phrases but the content of them as well. For them, things are always “complicated” when it comes to taking positions that are unpopular within the “progressive” milleau that they dabble in, whether it’s in the ivory towers of academia or in the streets with the “mass movements.”

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  2. MN Roy,

    It’s not the concept of “workers states” I object to (I agree with the concept), it’s the phrase. The phrase describes none of the complications (and I think the social reality of Stalinism IS complicated) you’ve laid out above, but tends to confuse the issue. A bit like “the dictatorship of the proletariat”; a concept I wholeheartedly agree with but a phrase most folks recoil at.

    RR

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  3. So ““Workers’ state” has always been an unfortunate phrase in the Trotskyist canon to address a complicated social reality.” Sounds like a lot of Soli-speak to me. And I don’t mean “Stoli” minus a key stroke from drinking too much of it.

    What’s so “complicated” for Marxists about describing a society in which the capitalist class has been expropriated politically and economically by a socialist revolution but effective political power remains monopolized by a bureaucracy emerging from the workers movement as a “workers state,” albeit a bureaucratized one?

    It still sounds a lot like a bureaucratized trade union to me. Nepotism, lack of democracy and collaboration with the bosses seem to abound there as well as in states ruled by Stalinists. Unless you don’t think that they are working class organizations any more either. Of course considering the recent record of the UAW vis-à-vis GM and Chrysler you might have a case there. Only I don’t think that that would wash with some of our trade union buddies, the way dissing terms like “workers states” goes over with post-Trotskyists.

    As for North Korea goes, you as well as I know that Kim Il-Sung, like Mao, Tito and Ho Chi Minh, led a guerilla struggle against Japanese imperialism during WWII. While Kim had the help of the Soviet Army in taking power, once there, he, or rather his party, which organized the most militant workers and peasants in Korea, proceeded to send the bosses and landlords on a one-way trip past the 38th Parallel. Granted, he diidn’t set up the most democratic or egalitarian of societies, but neither did Uncle Joe. Or perhaps Trotsky was wrong after all, and Schactman, Cliff and Co. were right all along.

    Finally, whatever the shortcomings of the workers states might have been, their brief existance showed that it was possible for working people to successfully organize an alternative form of society to capitalism in which full employment, free health care, housing and education were standard fare for most of the population. One of them, Cuba, still boasts an educational and health care system second to none in spite of being a “Third World” country. None of this would have been possible under capitalism. Just compare the military record of Soviet Russia to Tsarist Russia insofar as resisting German invasions goes.

    Unfortunately, the socialist revolutions that succeeded took place in economically underdeveloped and war ravaged countries where the working class was a small minority and scarcity was the norm. And as Marx (and Trotsky) pointed out, with scarcity comes all the “same old shit,” which includes Stalinist bureaucracy. A revolution in an advanced industrialized country like the US would not face the same problems that were faced in Russia or China or North Korea. Hasn’t happened yet. Agreed, but in 1776 there had yet to be a successful revolution against the British crown and in 1861 slavery had yet to be uprooted either.

    That said, the rest of your comments are, as usual, right on the money.

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  4. Jumping Jacks,

    I would agree only in the sense that an “effective alternative” has to be real to be effective. Clearly Marxists have had less success at creating that real alternative than they have in critiquing capitalism- revolutions are precious historic events that require much more than a critique to make real. That said, Marxists have been responsible for more actual alternatives to capitalism than any other political trend I can think of. In my mind the Russian Revolution made an alternative to capitalism more real than all of the co-ops and communes of the last epoch combined. It is also true that the alternative and the critique are not opposed to one another but mutually necessary. To divorce Marxism’s critique of capitalism from its advocacy of workers self-emancipation is impossible. I suppose an academic could do it, but than what do they propose as an alternative? Look at the critique and you will find the alternative (at least embryonically). But the tension you point to is real (theory and practice) and will continue to provide conundrums. If critiques “naturally” became alternatives all we would have to do is sit around and think to make revolutions.

    RR

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  5. RE your comments on North Korea, would you agree with the idea that Marxism has done a better job critiquing capitalism than coming up with an effective alternative to it?

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