[OPE-L:7315] Re: 'De omnibus dubitandum'

From: gerald_a_levy (gerald_a_levy@msn.com)
Date: Mon Jun 03 2002 - 06:40:30 EDT

Re David Y's [7308]:

> Again you seem to have missed the point and fallen into 
some sort of idealist explanation of 'Stalinism' - even if you 
have tried to hedge your bets. Anti-authoritarian trends and 
tendencies of all kinds existed in and around the Bolshevik 
party - they always are present in a revolutionary situation.  
Their perspective was simply unable to dominate  because 
of the 'material reality' - a revolutionary country increasingly 
isolated and under assault from imperialism and social 
democracy. What happened within  Bolshevik Party requires 
a materialist explanation not an idealist or moralistic one. <

Yes, it requires a materialist explanation.  However, our understanding
of what constitutes a  materialist explanation seems to differ.  Yes, 
the USSR was isolated and backwards economically and under attack
by imperialism, but the growth of Stalinism was not inevitable.  Objective
conditions _alone_ did not bring Stalin to power and keep him in power
for decades.  Even Plekhanov recognized that individuals and groups 
have a role in history.  Indeed,  the Bolshevik leadership -- and Lenin
in particular with his concept of the vanguard party -- recognized an 
essential role for "subjective" forces in history.   Had they not so
recognized, then the could not have come to power to begin with.  

The point is simply that at various moments in history there were real
possibilities for the outcome to be different.  And, very importantly, 
whenever the working class internationally suffers a defeat we have to 
_not only_ ask what were the "material factors" that led to a defeat but 
_also_ ask whether there were subjective errors and forces that contributed
to that defeat.  You call that "hedging my bets".  I call it a (non-idealist
and non-moralistic) revolutionary responsibility

While it is true as you say that there were some anti-authoritarian 
forces in the Bolsheviks (Kollantai comes to mind), this 
was not a perspective which was  dominant.   Another 'subjective' factor 
that perhaps contributed to this  was on the one hand the lack of a strong
tradition of anti-authoritarianism in Russian culture (oh my ... I said the 
word 'culture': does that make me an 'idealist'?) and on the other hand 
the massive growth in party membership that happened immediately 
following the insurrection.  So, yes, I think that Stalinism _could have_ 
been averted -- at least  temporarily.  It was not an "inevitable" 
consequence of 'material reality'  as you seem to suggest.

To point to the presence of authoritarian structures and movements and 
how  they are systematically required for a hierarchical organization to 
reproduce itself -- whether the authoritarian structure is an army or
capital --  is not "idealistic".  Neither is the presence or absence of
anti-authoritarian movements and practices "idealistic". 

> For myself I find the attempt to develop the 'orthodox' standpoint 
faces dogmatic and uncritical rejection from our 'modern' or should 
one say 'post-modern' critics of Marx. I put this down to the social 
conditions in the imperialist countries, but believe they will change 
and real possibilities for developing the 'orthodox' perspective are 
returning. <

Yet, aren't most of those who put forward an "orthodox" standpoint
also from the imperialist nations?  One could, for instance, argue that 
the isolation of revolutionaries in imperialist nations during non-
revolutionary periods breeds orthodox perspectives as well. In any event,
your apparent claim that "orthodox" perspectives will again gain 
popularity as social conditions change (to a greater extent than "non-
orthodox" perspectives) is either an unsubstantiated assertion or an 
optimistic (and idealistic) whim.  

> There are standards to judge the Marxist perspective. Doubt everything 
is not one of them. <

Marxists will be judged by the masses themselves.  If they create
authoritarian structures --  hierarchies and beaureucracies -- then they
will fail the revolutionary test.  Too much has happened in the world for
workers to simply accept on faith the authority of Marxists.  They
will either wage a revolt against capital and authority or there will be no 
revolution at all. 

In solidarity, Jerry

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Tue Jul 02 2002 - 00:00:04 EDT