[OPE-L:7317] Re: Re: 'De omnibus dubitandum'

From: dashyaf@easynet.co.uk
Date: Mon Jun 03 2002 - 13:19:36 EDT

Re Jerry's 7315

Again we probably  disagree - the subjective can play a crucial role in 
history but only at certain moments. Once those moments are lost, then 
certain material developments become dominant. 'Men make their own 
history,  but they do not make it just as they please; they do not make it 
under circumstances chosen by themselves...' 18th Brumaire...

I have no idea whether Stalinism was inevitable - it is probably impossible 
to give an answer to such a question. We do however need to examine it as 
an historical fact and learn from that history, in so far as it is 
possible. This is not an academic question but a real practical one and I 
believe the Cubans have tried in adverse circumstances to avoid many of the 
pitfalls of Soviet development. They were certainly helped in surviving as 
a socialist country by the existence of the Soviet Union until the collapse 
of the Soviet bloc in 1989-91, so reality is full of real contradictions. 
But many interesting developments are now taking place in Cuba and it would 
be far better to discuss such developments and the role the masses play in 
Cuban political life than try to answer the question you pose.

The sectarianism and dogmatism of left organisations in the imperialist 
countries arises from the fact that they do not have to relate to real 
working class struggles and therefore their positions are not yet put to 
the test in practice. My optimism arises from the fact that such conditions 
are in the process of changing and as class conflict arises the positions 
of all organisations and their theoretical underpinnings will be tested in 

I believe in the widest possible democracy in political organisation - the 
right of all those involved in struggle to have their views heard, to sell 
their newspapers, whatever... that means that their views are tested in 
practice...so we do not disagree on such matters.

In solidarity

David Yaffe

At 06:40 03/06/02 -0400, you wrote:
>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

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