1990s >> 1997 >> no-1112-april-1997

Letters: Clique of Political Gangsters

Clique of Political Gangsters
Dear Editors,

Writing in the February Socialist Standard (“Militant Dishonesty”), Adam Buick comments: “Imagine what a Trotskyist dictatorship would be like; not too different from a Stalinist one. we would suppose.” Very true.

Leon Trotsky was every bit as ruthless as Joseph Stalin. His only problem was that he lost out to Stalin in the inevitable power-struggle following the Bolshevik coup d’état in Russia, in 1917, and was expelled from the country, and ultimately killed in Mexico City by one of Stalin’s henchmen.

It should not be forgotten, however, that Trotsky supported the dissolution of the democratically-elected Constituent Assembly on January 6, 1918, because the Bolsheviks were in a minority; that Trotsky, together with Lenin, argued that the trade unions should be subordinated to the government; and. following Trotsky’s appointment as Commissar of Military Affairs, he established the death penalty for disobedience under fire into the Red Army, and restored the saluting of officers, of whom many were former Czarist officers, and other privileges for senior officers. In December 1919 Trotsky submitted his proposal for the “militarisation of Labour”; and on December 27, the Soviet government, with Lenin’s approval, set up their Commission on Labour Duty, with Trotsky. as Commissar for War, as its President. Trotsky stressed that coercion, regimentation and militarisation of labour were not mere emergency measures; but that the Soviet state had the right to coerce any citizen to perform any work, at any time of its choosing. Just as Stalin did, with his forced labour camps, ten years later. In February 1921 strikes broke out in Petrograd and Moscow, after the government had announced that the very meagre bread ration was to be cut by a third. In the Kronstadt naval base, the sailors rebelled; and, on March 5, Trotsky issued an ultimatum, demanding the immediate and unconditional capitulation of the sailors, saying “only those who surrender unconditionally may count on the mercy of the Soviet Republic”.

And so on . . .

Had Trotsky won and Stalin lost in their struggle for power, the outcome in the Soviet Union would most certainly have been the same: the emergence of a state-capitalist dictatorship (Lenin admitted that Russia had become a state-capitalist dictatorship even before he died in 1924). ruled by a privileged and parasitic minority of bureaucrats and apparatchiks. Even limited bourgeois democracy was anathema to Leon Trotsky.

And this is the man that the Militant Tendency, now masquerading as the Socialist Party, eulogise. Socialists must confront them, demand to speak in opposition at their meetings (as socialists allow opponents at theirs), and expose them for what they are—an anti-socialist clique of political gangsters. There is no alternative.

Leading members of “Militant/Militant Labour” might well argue that they were unaware of the existence of the Socialist Party. However, Peter Taaffe. editor of Militant since 1964. and now general secretary of their party, has mentioned us, as “Socialist Party” (without the “the”) in writing, in his long and turgid tome. The Rise of Militant (Militant publications, London, 1995. Chapter 54. p.544). “Euro-Elections”: “Militant Labour and Scottish Militant Labour decided to nominate Tommy Sheridan as a candidate for the European elections in Glasgow . . . He beat the Tories, Liberal Democrats, Greens, Socialist Party, Natural Law Party and the Communist Party of Great Britain” (emphasis mine).

So, there we are.

Peter E. Newell, 
Colchester, 
Essex

What’s in a name?
Dear Editors,

The news that the Trotskyite wing of the Labour Party is to call itself “The Socialist Party” has rightly caused consternation among true Socialists. But then, so many other bodies have adopted similar tactics this century. Even the New Labour Party, under Tony Blair, has many members chaffing at losing their “Socialist” identity.

The trouble is that nowhere in the world is that word “Socialism” recognised in its true meaning, apart from by an insignificant few, who ruffle no political surface anywhere . . . after ninety-two years of intensive propaganda.

The word “Socialism” in its true meaning has always failed to communicate itself, simply causing greater confusion.

Why not shut the door on this useless piece of baggage and let your objectives be your title? For example: “The One World Moneyless Society Party”?

In one stroke confusion is ended. Only true Socialists can follow you down that path. That word is made redundant. It has never served its purpose and has no future.

Sam Levitt
London, NW3

Reply:
We don’t agree. While it is true that the word “Socialism” has become distorted this century to mean state capitalism even for most of those who consider themselves socialists, the word still does convey, better than for instance “moneyless society” which suggests a mere economic change, what we stand for: a society where productive resources are commonly, i.e. socially, owned and where people cooperate. i.e. act socially, to produce what is needed. After all, we say that humans are social animals, and what better name for a society where humans can develop their social potential to the full than “socialism”.

Editors

Marxian purity?
Dear Editors,
I’ve been generally looking sympathetically at the website of your Canadian counterparts for a few months now, and have finally decided to write to you with some general enquiries vis your organization: some statistical and some theoretical, since what is said in the web-site intrigues me. If I may then, I have some questions to ask:
What are your general political activities? If you’ll forgive me, from the tone of the website you seem to adopt an approach of revolutionary predeterminacy (it will come when it comes) and of Marxian purity, gained at the expense of activity. It sounds like your general support for the abolition of property is your only goal, and that you do not work to oppose (by actions) capitalism as it stands but defer all action to the time of the “inevitable revolution”. This rather strikes me as a theoretical purity gained by a loss of effectiveness.
Something that has happened to myself, when arguing for socialism and against vanguardism. is that I have been presented with two arguments:
  1. That how will it be possible to bring the proletariat round to a revolutionary consciousness without a minority vanguard (and further what use then is such a party as yours?).
  2. That a world-wide revolution is not possible both because of the impossibility of the world-wide proletariat rebelling simultaneously, and further that the capitalist imperialist system has damaged the development of many countries, thus preventing them from having the infrastructure necessary to progress to communism. And I wonder how your party can answer these arguments, because my usual response is to bluff my way out of them, as I can’t see a real answer (particularly vis the awakening of revolutionary consciousness of the people).
I would be grateful if you could help my curiosity—thank you.
Bill Martin
Lancashire

Reply:
Our general political activities consist in propagating the idea of socialism. This involves publishing leaflets, pamphlets and a monthly magazine, holding meetings, debating with other groups, contesting elections, all with the aim, at the moment, of spreading a knowledge of what socialism is and of inciting a desire for it. Later, when a majority have come to want socialism, the aim will be to dislodge from power, through democratic political action, the supporters of class privilege and the profit system.

We certainly do not believe in “predeterminacy”: that all we have to do is sit around and wait for socialism to come. Capitalism certainly paves the way for socialism, but people make history and it is people who will have to make the transformation from capitalism to socialism. What socialists can— and must—do is accelerate this.
In one sense we who are already socialists are a “vanguard”: we have become socialists before the rest. We are certainly a minority. But the question is: how should that minority act? Lenin’s answer (echoed today by the myriad Leninist. Trotskyist. Maoist, etc. groups throughout the world) was that it should seek to lead the workers; this was reinforced by his (mistaken) assumption that the mass of workers were not in fact capable of understanding socialism anyway and was accompanied by advocacy of a rigidly centralised and top-down form of organisation. This is what “vanguardism” generally means and what we mean by it when we denounce it.

The answer we give as to what a socialist minority should do is that socialists should seek to “agitate, educate and organise” workers for socialism. This is based on the assumption that not only can workers understand socialism but that a majority of them must before socialism can be established. It follows from this that seeking to be a leadership cannot advance the cause of socialism, only the spread of socialist knowledge can. It also follows that Socialists should organise themselves, not as an elite general staff, but as an open democratic party, so prefiguring the mass socialist party they expect to emerge and indeed so prefiguring the inevitably democratic nature of a socialist society.

Is the idea of a world-wide revolution realistic? Why not? After all, capitalism is already a world-wide system, in fact it is now more than ever a single world system. Even theorists of capitalism are beginning to recognise this with their talk of “globalisation”. They are right. What it means is that if global capitalism is to be replaced it can only be replaced globally, by another global system, world socialism.

It is up to those who think it unlikely that when the idea of (world) socialism catches on it will do so more or less evenly in all parts of the world to explain why they think it will catch on first in some countries before others (and in which). To us, the more realistic supposition is that of an even growth, because conditions are essentially the same everywhere and because socialism is the idea of a world society (and also, of course, because the international socialist movement will be consciously working to try to ensure an even development of socialist ideas).

Capitalist-imperialist development has certainly held back the development of many parts of the world, but remember socialism is not something that is (or could be) established separately in different countries one by one; it is a world system. Like capitalism. When we socialists say that the resources of the world are (more than) sufficient to eliminate world hunger and poverty and provide a decent life for the whole world’s population we are talking about productive resources on a world scale.

Editors