By Robert Biester
- What is Trotskyism
- What is Bolshevik-Leninism
- Throwdown dogma, embrace fluidity
What is Trotskyism
Trotskyism, before it became an actual ideology, was a derogatory term for those who did not agree with the Stalinist line on Lenin, it was used to decry Trotsky and his constituents as being alien to Lenin, to attack the theory of permanent revolution and the foundation of the October revolution.
The Stalinists believed that by destroying the relationship between Lenin and Trotsky, not as disciple and teacher, but as equal theoreticians of Marxism, they could make the claim that Trotsky and Lenin’s theories came out of vacuums, exclusive to one another rather than being in relation and in most cases in conjunction with each other.
To destroy the link between Trotsky and Lenin, the Stalinists did its best to destroy Bolshevism, to uproot the works of Lenin and castrate it, Stalin had no other choice but to resort to conspiracy, opportunism and falsification in order to justify his own party line, and while the term existed before Stalin, in these things the Trotskyism of the 1920s came to be.
This effort failed as long as Trotsky lived, it failed in its efforts to deprive Leninism of its revolutionary character,it failed in its efforts to falsify the history of October, and it failed to destroy Trotsky’s relationship to Lenin. It was the Trotskyists who came after Trotsky’s death that did this for the Stalinists.
From 1939 there was a shift within Bolshevik-Leninist circles from the idea of a united opposition against Stalinist falsification to the deification of Trotsky as the Stalinists during Trotsky’s time had made it out to be. This was made apparent in the change of terminology, with one of the most blatant examples of this being James P. Cannon and the American Left Opposition’s shift from Bolshevik-Leninism to Trotskyism not a year after Trotsky’s death. This was a trend within many of the Bolshevik-Leninist parties of the Americas and Europe. “How is this shift in terminology significant, though?” you may ask. It seems to be superficial at best. Names don’t make up the theory and praxis of any tendency, but the shift does not come from a simple change of name, it is what the change of name represented the deification of Trotsky as an ideologue rather than as a continuation of Marxist theory.
Trotskyism has turned Trotsky into an infallible leader, into one of the leading heads alongside Marx, Engels, and Lenin. Just as the Stalinists uphold Stalin, so have the Trotskyists upheld Trotsky. There is no room for criticism of the man. His words have been canonized along with those of Lenin and the head duo (Marx and Engels). It is not enough that Lenin has been deified by those who call themselves “Leninist”—they must also do the same to the man who came up alongside him—the man who wrote some of his best works in congruence (and in response) to Lenin.
How does this affect the general politics of the hundreds of Trotskyist organizations? The idea of changing the praxis of old is thrown out the window, they continue to uphold dead traditions such as entryism,(or the French turn, as Trotsky called it), a strategy that just leads to subversion of the revolutionary current and the creation of confusion among the rank and file members of an organization. Let us for example look at two different kinds of entryism.
The french turn being a strategy that was promoted by Trotsky to the french section of the 4th international, to join the French Socialist party in the hopes of turning it revolutionary, it did not really go that way and instead the Communists were kicked after only winning about 500 members from the Socialist party to their side.
The first kind is when a small group of revolutionaries (about 5 to 10 people) joins a larger organization or party in order to recruit and build from the revolutionary and left sections of said party. This strategy works fine and helps build up connections within a small organization that will allow it to grow and learn from its experiences.
Now let me take a larger organization (made up of about 200 to 500 members) within one country that is under the impression that they must join another organization in order to build up the revolutionary momentum within said country. They do not try to build themselves up on their own merit, but rather try to leech off other already-established organizations; the use of this strategy leads to a number of problems:
First, it creates a dynamic where the bigger Trotskyist organization begins to transfer its resources and time to the current activity of the party they have just joined in the hopes of turning it into a “revolutionary” organization. Second, any organism that merges itself with another for the sole purpose of taking its members and whisking them away would create a crisis of identity over the question of which side, if any, is acting as a parasite.
While the Smaller entryist organization does not have the prior independence nor the resources that the larger org would have, making entryism make much more sense in the bigger scheme of things for the smaller organization, but the ending result has historically speaking been the Larger party purging the entryist group from its ranks to destroy the wayward shift towards the left within itself.
This criticism of entryism does not come from a rejection of the strategy itself, but the way it’s been implemented and the circumstances of that implementation. It is touted as a pragmatic way of building up revolutionary consciousness, but it seems to only result in the opposite. The apologism for the actions of social democrats by entry groups is as reprehensible as it is pathetic. To also try and put on the face of only showing critical support to these actions makes this blush of shame becomes a mark of Cain on any attempt at trying to save face as a revolutionary organization.
Intent and circumstance be damned; any organization that participates in this kind of strategy must uphold its revolutionary principles. It cannot defend the actions of those who try to deceive the proletariat even if they are “pragmatic” or “reluctant” about joining their party. This is where the the problem of the dogmatic upholding of entryism as a “successful” strategy manifests: you are not joining a party and taking advantage of them for members, you have given them your money in dues and you are the one handing out their pamphlets and further propagating their deceit, so who is it that benefits from a large group (200 to 500 hundred is quite large) joining a much larger organization to “take advantage” of their influence?
It is the larger organization that is benefiting from the activity of the entryists. They find it annoying having a group of Trotskyists argue for strikes or to work with unions and the proletariat instead of some vague petty bourgeois identity movement—and this happens quite a bit. As a former associate of mine recalled: a member of the IMT (International Marxist Tendency) in their rent “strike” group who kept advocating for them to reach out to workers in the city and to try and organize a general strike against the current Covid working conditions was bullied and ostracised by the rest of this tenant “union”. The IMT member was of course correct in saying that the rent strike shouldn’t be an isolated endeavor and should include the entire working class, but to the radical liberals in the “union” this was seen as trying to distract their movement from the real issues which were not capitalist exploitation of the proletariat, but their landlord hiking prices of their apartments (which is still apart of the exploitation under capitalism).
I tell this anecdote because it is a great example of what happens when you attach yourself to social democracy and not to the proletariat. When you surround yourself with liberals, don’t be surprised when they get mad and try to harass you for wanting revolution and liberation for the working class.
The reformist party does not care for the working class, they care about their prestige and the image they create within capitalism, so when a group of revolutionaries joins them in the attempt to turn them revolutionary, it ends in minor victories, but larger defeats with them either being harassed and forced out of the party they have given their time to, or are purged by the party apparatus itself.
Another form of dogmatism that is upheld within Trotskyist organizations is rampant sectarianism: always fighting over who is truly upholding Trotsky. Whether it be the Orthodox Trotskyist or the third camp Trotskyist(who believe that the USSR was state capitalist rather than a degenerated workers state), each one believes that they are the true Trotskyist without really seeing what Trotsky or the Left Opposition stood for—that it wasn’t about upholding a dogmatic doctrine.
One of these roots of sectarianism comes from what to classify the USSR and its sibling states as Trotsky’s original diagnosis was a degenerated workers state meaning that it still had the basis of a workers state but with the bureaucracy curtailing the workers and acting as a social parasite on them, much like a car with just its frame is still a car even if it is missing several parts, following this was the diagnosis put forward by Tony Cliff and the Johnson-Forest tendency believing the USSR was state capitalist which means that the USSR ceased being a workers state entirely because the bureaucracy had become the new ruling class.
This became more and more of a contentious debate within the 4th international and Leon Trotsky commented on it himself several times trying to disprove the theory by examining the role of the bureaucracy as a career rather than a class and their social function within the USSR, the main difference was though that trotsky never decried the state capitalist thinkers of being revisionist, and he never tried to kick them from the 4th international either, instead he tried to debate and change their conception of the USSR.
The Left Opposition stood as a united formation against the bureaucratisation of the Comintern and the encroachment of the theory of “Socialism in one Country” against the lessons of the October revolution. It was not as Stalinists claimed to be a “Trotskyist” reaction against the true and real development of Leninism within the USSR. The theory of “Marxism-Leninism” was created in reaction to the Bolshevik-Leninist current of the Left opposition.
As Trotsky put it in a letter to the Italian left under the leadership of Amadeo Bordiga:
“In order to join the International Left there is no need whatever for false “monolitkism” in the spirit of the Stalinist bureaucracy. What is needed is genuine solidarity on the basic questions of international revolutionary strategy that has stood the test of the last few years. Partial tactical disagreements are absolutely unavoidable and cannot serve as an obstacle for close common work within the framework of an international organization.”
So it is quite odd when you contrast the original intentions of the International Left Opposition to what came after it, an array of largely sectarian groups all claiming to be the true disciples of Trotsky, when in actuality they were just upholding the false memory of those too nostalgic of what came before. This also plays into the previous section where I discuss the continued practice of entryism.
This sectarianism does a great disservice to Trotsky, the man who fought for international revolution over all else, over the petty moralism that has become modern communist party politics, so is it dogmatism or is it the Trotskyists trying to uphold their party line?
It is not a crime against Trotsky to try and uphold a consistent party line, this is one of the many problems with Stalinism. In their refusal to commit to any continued principles within their party and their ideology, they act dogmatically towards any kind of policy their party bureaucrats put forward and then act like they are anti dogmatic when that same bureaucracy changes its mind two days later.
Even though the Trotskyist parties do act dogmatically in their policies, I will compliment them on the fact that they are much more willing to actually work within their party lines if something is broken and will try and fix it. This does not sufficiently cover the sectarianism that they employ within their parties and organizations, as it has become something of a common joke that Trotskyists will split over the smallest perceived infraction.
For example, there were approximately 28 Trotskyist organizations in the UK, each one competing for the title of upholding the correct line, The only one that wasn’t trying to do this was the Socialist Workers Party (UK) who was trying to distinguish itself as Neo-Trotskyist by saying that it was their theory of state capitalism that was the true continuation of Trotsky. Though the SWPUK has its problems with becoming little more than a cult after their leader Tony Cliff died, it would be unwise to say that they were not one of the few diadochi Trotskyist organizations that had a lasting impact in the United Kingdom.
The US Trotskyist organizations fare little better than the United Kingdom’s counterparts, though that is only because most of the old groups disbanded or joined larger ones as part of entryism tactics, or because they degenerated like the Socialist Workers Party (US) who became increasingly influenced by the Cuban revolution to the point where they are now considered “Castroist”. The SWP(USA) split early in its history because of the politics of one Sam Marcy who believed that the party should support Mao and the invasion of Hungary. He would go on to leave the party and found the Workers World Party which itself would split some years later to become the Party for Socialism and Liberation because of a perceived deviation of Trotskyism by the other party. Both parties are now considered Stalinist.
Stalinists uphold a demagogue in each of their tendencies, be that Hoxha, Mao, Brezhnev and Tito are small examples of the pantheon the stalinist has built around themselves which creates a lack of discussion because to them there is only the word of their ideological “head”, Maoists are the worse case of this as they even find a way to canonized those who fight virulently to uphold their chairmans word, the best being Gonzalo a man so vile he once called it anti Lenin to criticize his party for massacring workers in Peru.(6)
This is a perfect example of dogmatic approach to sectarianism viewed in the pretext of Stalinism, so it is with little surprise that we see the same thing within Trotskyist circles as the each trotskyist party has become a breeding ground of great man worship with the worst example being the Cliffites in the SWP(UK) who are at this point nothing more than a cult that worships Tony Cliff the same way the Communist Party of Great Britain-ML worships Stalin, just with less banners of the imaged Cliff.
“What is the purpose of rejecting these aspects of Trotskyism?” you may ask, “what is the solution to these issues you raised when there is no clear difference between Trotskyism and your so-called ‘Bolshevik-Leninism’?” The answer to both does not regard why I should reject these, but why, as Marxists, must we reject all the issues presented above: the rejection of the notion of changing praxis, the deification of theorists—trying to uphold their legacy when instead we are dragging them into the theoretical grave with us.
The dogmatism within Trotskyism is not alien to the dogmatism within Marxism in general, whether it be the Stalinist , the Bordigist, the Althusserian, or the Marxist-Humanist.
They all do a disservice to Marx by turning his philosophy from a revolutionary matter of motion into nothing more then vulgar materialism and subpar structuralism ignoring the subtleties of dialectics, something that I blame the precedence of was set when Marxists started to focus on praxis(activities existing outside of theory) and the attempt to separate Marxist theory into separate categories which watered down each concept.
What is the solution to this departure within Marxism? For me there is no one true answer, there is not one absolute solution to the problems of dogmatism within Marxism, but the embrace of Bolshevik-Leninism is a start.
What is Bolshevik-Leninism
Bolshevik-Leninism is the term coined by Leon Trotsky to define his sect (not his ideology, as to him there was no “Trotskyist” ideology—just the United Left Opposition against the Stalinist falsification of Marxism). The International Left Opposition (the original focus of the ULO), having been removed from the Third International, reformed into the Fourth International. At no point did Trotsky ever try to hold himself up as the theoretical head of the 4I as Stalin had done with the Comintern. The idea of monolithic Trotskyism came after Trotsky’s death and was something of a departure from the man they try to honor almost 80 years post-mortem.
What does Bolshevik-Leninism mean in the 21st century, 80 years after the death of Leon Trotsky, it is not a political ideology surrounded by one man like the Stalinists and their so called “Marxism-Leninism”, it is the not the sectarian ideology of the Trotskyists who refuse to move past the word of Trotsky, it is an idea that the revolutionary struggle for the liberation of the working class and the destruction of the current state of things is only achievable when it is understood that there are no heads of Marxism.
For the Bolshevik-Leninists, the pinnacle of Marxism was not Trotsky. The line does not go Marx, Engels, Lenin, Trotsky as many Trotskyists like to claim. There is no pinnacle of Marxism, as it is not something that exists in a vacuum, and like everything it is in constant motion. There should not be a “Trotskyist” understanding of something, there should only be a Marxist understanding. It is not the job of the Bolshevik-Leninist to uphold petty sectarian takes on any given current event or topic, this would be wasteful of time and energy used to propagate and organize the workers.
“But what is the line of the Bolshevik-Leninist?” you may be asking yourself What matters is not what the line of BL, but its relation to Trotskyism, Bolshevik-Leninism does not negate the original prognosis of Trotsky and Lenin on how Revolution should be conducted, but rather the negation of worship towards these two.
Should we fight on the graves of dead men? or use their works to inspire us and educate ourselves on the struggles of these men, take from them what we need and discard what has become obsolete by the flow of history, it would be ludicrous for us to apply Lenin’s exact word to the conditions of today, though i should specify that there is a difference between strategy and definition, Lenin’s definition of socialism and the dictatorship of the proletariat is still correct, while his strategy on an alliance between the proletariat and petty bourgeois for the purpose of national liberation is outdated.
The stalinists who attempt this ultimately falsify Lenin and Marx by making out that they have always supported the ideas of Stalin rather then just owning up to the fact that they have fundamentally changed marxism into a parody of itself, of course Lenin always believed that markets existed under socialism because he said so in the Tax in kind, of course the lower phase of communism and the dictatorship of the proletariat are the same thing because he used the term Socialism to differentiate it from the higher phase of communism.
When called out on their falsification they try to hide behind the mask of anti dogmatism by just doubling down on dogmatism, just like how a person who has mistaken sulphuric acid for beer and just screams “oh so what are you saying that beer is better for me than acid? Why are you upholding such an undialectical view on beverages?”.
Strategy is something that must change, our organizing must change based off what is going on at the current moment, we must use a dialectical approach to the actions of ourselves, there is no permanent solution to everything and there is no ultimate answer to every action that we must take, there is only motion and we must keep moving in order to stay up with that motion.
Definition is something that doesn’t change as long as the base contradiction exists within society, that contradiction being Capitalism, Marx is just as correct in his definition of Commodity production and the state as he was 200 years ago, so is Engels, Lenin and Trotsky’s definitions which they Kept from Marx
The definition of Permanent revolution is still just as relevent as it was when trotsky first spoke of it in 1905, that only the proletarian revolution will be able to bring about the products of the bourgeois democratic revolution in backward semi feudal countries, the strategy was proven correct during the 1917 revolution where the proletariat seized power and established one of the first DOTP with the help of the peasantry.
Though i should elaborate on this definition that was created by Trotsky, in backwards countries that have not gone through their bourgeois-democratic revolution do not have to wait for the national bourgeoisie to bring about this revolution, but rather the proletariat do this through the dictatorship of the proletariat who throw their backwards bourgeoise aside and achieves the goals of both the Proletariat and Bourgeois revolution in one step rather than two stages(a Bourgeoise stage and then finally the Proletariat stage) that was supported by the mensheviks and later the stalinists, the name itself alludes to this as the revolution does not stop at the bourgeois revolution but continues into the proletariat one that negates the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie.
The strategy though that was created by Trotsky and Lenin has become outdated, this strategy being the Proletariat leading the Peasantry and “revolutionary” petty bourgeois in a alliance against the imperialist/national government, and the establishment of a “democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry”, I will elaborate later why this has become outdated.
Almost 104 years later the definition is still correct while the strategy must be applied to the current class conditions within imperialized states, such as Iraq and Peru, who are used for the purpose of extracting oil and the production of commercial crops/commercial metals respectfully, although since the expansion of US oil fields the iraqi’s oil has become less needed leading to a significant dropping in Gas prices throughout the world.
Permanent revolution is the only way forward for the imperialized portion of the world , the national bourgeoisie are incapable of ever overthrowing the yoke of the imperialists because it is those same imperialists keeping them in power, do you not think the bourgeoisie in the Africa benefit from the armed presence of the US, its US troops fighting local insurgents and it is the US who buys the raw material extracted by the African proletariat from the African bourgeoisie.
The coalition forces are the ones who put the Iraqi bourgeoisie into power after overthrowing Saddam and it was those same forces that supported them when those dumbasses in ISIS were waging their holy war against the modern world, and in exchange the national bourgeoisie are allowed to sell their oil to the US and compete in the world marketplace of commodities, just like every other country.
The armies of these imperialized countries are armed and trained by the very imperialists that are supposedly holding these countries under the boot of exploitation, that may have been the case in the 1920’s but now the situation has become something more of a toxic beneficial relationship, the Imperialist provides the exploited country with the means of defending itself from internal conflict while also making it well known that they are the only reason why this country is able to function, it is the technology provided by the imperialist that allows these countries to participate in the 21st century, much like a abusive husband allowing his wife the autonomy to do what she wants but reminding them what will happen if they do something the husband does not like.
The Proletariat state is the only solution to this for this change in imperialist strategy, another change too is the inclusion of the peasantry who no longer exist as a class, the development of capitalism has affected the way raw materials(foodstuff and metals) are extracted due to there being a much higher demand for these materials in the heavily industrialized nations like China and the US, Archaic production that once was the thing that kept the peasantry as a functioning class no longer exist as it is no longer able to keep up with the demand that is needed in a world that has a population almost double of what it was in 1920.
It would be ridiculous for us to believe that the international bourgeoise would rather keep the peasantry around just to make sure they have the technological edge over them when they still have that over the proletariat of the imperialised nation(and even their own nation), the only people who would be idealist enough to put their heads in the sand on the extinction of the peasant classes would be the maoists who also believe that a class collaborationist government is the only form of state that can rule a backwards country that just liberated itself from imperialism.
The definition of Permanent revolution is something that Bolshevik-Leninists must study as it is one of the most revolutionary theories on national liberation developed in the last 100 hundred years, and it is up to the Bolshevik-Leninists in south America, Africa and the middle east to apply this theory as strategy to thoroughly overthrow the national bourgeoisie and the international bourgeoise from their home and establish the Dictatorship of the proletariat there with the support of the Proletariat world wide.
Theory and Praxis hand in hand
In the last couple decades the importance of theory has become secondary while the attempts at praxis has become the main focus of parties, this has created a problem within Marxism where you have comrades making a fool of themselves by not looking at the underlying the drive of all things, they lack the understanding that is needed to be able to effectively organize and propagate themselves, with minor success they feel they have won over the proletariat.
Without theory there is little understanding to all that exists, there is no understanding to the reason why we must do what we do, now i am not saying that theory is absent completely from modern Marxists, it has just become the afterthought when it comes to the actions outside, it is written after the deed as if that’s how it works or that it has always been this way, or it is written to justify the party line without adding anything new to the Marxist formula.
Writing has been relegated to a propaganda only position, there is no room for critical thinking on the matter of party policy or current events, the high esteemed Marxist must uphold his dignity or else the bourgeoise will look down on them for not being infallible followers of the non critical Marx, lack of self awareness and a lack of independent minded theory has coincided since the Stalinist bureaucracy took power and the opposition was forced to stand toe to toe with them leading to a need for pure discipline and almost religious adherence to the Organization.
It is a rule of Marxism that we must criticise everything, to look at everything in the eye’s of pessimism, studying in order to effectively organize and rally against the State and Bourgeoise, is more important in the long run then any protest, march or event planned by any group regardless of affiliation, without theory there is no meaningful praxis and without praxis there is no point in writing theory.
Figure heads have for a long time dominated Marxist sectarianism by choice or by coincidence, it has created a sense of political hoarseness based on who is more correct. with the workers movement becoming another alien being that these tendencies base their interpretation on by projecting their will on an imagined proletariat that they have not actually interacted with, I would like to go through some of these figures in more detail and how it both demeans marxism from important development within the realm of theory and the importance the theory of Trotsky and Lenin had on them, starting with one I have had the most experience reading.
Amadeo Bordiga is probably one of the most independent thinkers within Marxism, he wrote with a ferociousness that impressed Trotsky enough that he would ask for them to join the ILO himself in an open letter I quoted earlier, and while i don’t believe he was a Trotskyist i would say he falls under the banner of left opposition and is even important to the development of Bolshevik-Leninism as a tendency, that is the communist opposition to Stalinism and I recommend him to anyone who is looking for someone to read(even though i disagree with some of what he believed)
But what about his contemporary followers? The ultra-leftist Onorato Damen changed the core ideas of Bordiga and built a kind of personality cult around him while also changing the core ideas of bordigism, one of those being his views on national liberation, now to Damenites national liberation is an inherently bourgeois act no matter what class is committed to it, and while Bordiga was critical and outright called the National Liberation supported by the stalinists as subordinating the proletariat to national bourgeoisie.
He was supportive of the National liberation movements that were unequivocally proletariat, this somewhat shows the Influence Trotsky’s ideas had on Bordiga, because this is what we would call Permanent revolution and as Bordiga put it.
“but it rather another proof that the revolution had been historically “shortened” from a double revolution to a bourgeois-only revolution, wherein the latter the leaders cut each other’s heads to steal ideas and brains.”
Double revolution being code for the proletariat revolution conducting both the bourgeois revolution and proletariat one at the same time, this by no means makes Bordiga some student of trotsky or even a trotskyist, it rather highlights the continuation of the Bolshevik-Leninism that bordiga was apart of, with the principles of it being one of the cornerstones of Bordiga.
To the Damenites though, this is something to cover up and to falsify the theories of Bordiga into another figure head that must be upheld dogmatically with almost zero criticism being drawn to their own policy or beliefs, and even the beliefs of Bordiga, the Damenites rely entirely on vulgarization rather then any actual Marxist theory, much like how the stalinists act towards stalin, other then the fact that the stalinists are not nearly as arrogant and petty as the Damenites, which is a very big feat when it comes to opportunistic falsification of Marxist theory.
And this comes to the root of my argument, that you don’t have to worship figures or even devote yourself to petty tendencies in order to agree with them, bordiga was a continuer of the traditions of Marxism and Leninism(be it a much more hardlining and somewhat intense interpretation he had on it), it would be wrong of me to deny he was an intelligent person who added to Marxism as a fluid subject and just uphold a utilitarian moral high ground by saying he was correct on every position he has ever had because I agree with him on some issue or say he was a incorrect on every position because I disagree with him on another issue.
Another person i feel does a good job continuing the motion of Marxism and who subsequently was a follower of Trotsky but broke over the nature of the USSR is a woman by the name of Raya Duneyevskaya who is considered one of the founding theorists of Marxism-Humanism and is most famous for her translation of Marx’s 1844 manuscripts and Lenin’s philosophical notebook which had a strong impact on her philosophy and her Marxism-Humanism.
And even though i disagree with her on her stance on the nature of the USSR and her rejection of Dialectical Materialism because of Marx’s absent mention of it, even though according to Engels they had developed it together and in letters to Marx, Engels discusses it and how natural science has proved it correct, but her writings on Stalinist falsification and the role the party should be taken into study when it comes to revolution and she even notes the importance Trotsky had as a continuation of Marxism:
“appeared to me to be at variance with both the reality of state capitalism in Russia and its total perversion of the Humanism of Marxism as a theory of liberation. I broke with Trotsky. My break from Trotsky’s politics in no way changed my attitude toward him as one of the greatest revolutionists of our age, one who, with Lenin, led the great October Revolution. He remains “the man of October.”
Now she has become vulgarized because her modern followers refuse to leave the comfort of the previously canonized St.Raya, who is now a infallible philosopher whose works are highly esteemed and should be worshipped without regard for the contents or their place in the motion of Marxism, this is apparent in the open disdain they have for Engels who they view as vulgarizing the philosophy of Marx, which i personally find laughable because it implies Marx and Engels relationship was one sided rather then two close friends who shaped the ideas of each other (I will admit though Engels himself viewed Marx as being the more intelligent and important one in the relationship).
The reason why I bring up these two and the rejection of figureheads is the fact that they do a great disservice towards Marxism and Bolshevik-Leninism by atomizing and putting these two people in a bubble and becoming sectarian tendencies that reject any acknowledgement of the importance the Left opposition and Bolshevik-Leninism had on their respective ideas.
Bolshevik-Leninism means the rejection of pillar-saints and petty sectarianism that stands in the way of motion based study on what continues Marxism as a revolutionary ideology, it is possible to read any Marxist and if they continue the strategy and dialectical motion of it then it is important to accept it as a continuation, but if it tries and changes the definitions of Marxism then it is not a continuation, it is a falsification and perversion of it.
Bolshevik-Leninism and Rhetoric
Bolshevik-Leninism didn’t have a manifesto nor did it have a handbook on what we should and shouldn’t believe, all they had was Trotsky and the thinkers that sided with him, it was their struggles that shaped the course of Bolshevik-Leninism, but it was put to the torch after Trotsky’s death when these lessons became nothing more than a dogmatic rally cry for the vultures after.
As with all things it is not what the parties of the past did that we should emulate, but what conditions existed and how we can learn from those conditions and apply a similar program if it leads to the ultimate goal of the liberation of the working class, and rhetoric plays a important part in this, for over 60 years Stalinists, Damenites, and Trotskyists have focused on the merit of phrase mongering and that only takes you so far when it only attracts students and the already Communist worker but something else is needed.
It is up to the workers party and by extension the workers themselves to decide what is the best course of action, it is not up to ideologues to say what the Proletariat should believe and it is for that reason why i believe that the only form of workers party is one that embraces debate and umbrella political organizing rather than a Christianesque belief in the holy path of a “true” proletariat philosophy, this is something that was a given during the early 1900’s before the rise of Stalinism and Trotskyism that encouraged the destruction and purity of the party which ironically is one of the criticism given to the IWW and the reason for their decline in the 20’s for their refusal to work with other unions and them purging their ranks of Communists as James P Cannon wrote in his Report to the Communist international.
“The IWW is rapidly dwindling into a destructive sect, declining in membership and prestige. Its stubborn adhesion to the theory of building up entirely new unions according to a fixed program, regardless of the existence of the other unions, has brought about the inevitable result of isolating small groups of advanced workers into little propaganda unions of their own, away from the already organized unions, where they will do Gompers & Co. no harm.”
Of course it should be noted that the Workers party shouldnt give any inch to the petty bourgeois socialists like the Democratic Socialist’s of America for they do not stand for the workers control of the Means of production but for the creation of equitable capitalism, the main drive of my argument is that i am not calling for the Workers Party to allow capitalists to join because it would be dogmatic and sectarian to do otherwise, what i am saying is it would be substitutionalist and pure projection for us to believe that only one ideology is correct and if you don’t believe it then you aren’t a worker or are just a confused one at that.
The Proletariat is made up of billions of people who are individuals who will fight for their own individual wants, so any Workers party must be willing to accept that it won’t be universally a Trotskyist party, a Stalinist Party or even a Syndicalist party, it would be a workers party that is made up of and ran by workers, and anyone who says otherwise has become so deluded in pure ideology and the sweet nothings of a brain that cannot comprehend that someone will have a differing opinion that is not the one they currently base their identity on.
If you believe your opinion to be correct and that the party should accept them then it must be up to you to convince the rank and file, to speak with a golden tongue and to fight with the energy of someone who is truly dedicated to the World Workers revolution, debate is a inevitable event in any mass organization that not only allows for the reinvigoration and to reify the goals and message of the party, so it is up to the Bolshevik-Leninist to debate the falsifiers and the deceptors in order to win over the party to our side in such questions of the right course, not to simply call the party revisionist and then decide to create a new party that is far away from and does no damage to the opportunist Party.
The one exception to this is if the party has become thoroughly anti-revolutionary, then it will become optimal to split from the broader party and wage a war for the hearts and minds of the workers and bring them back to the course of International revolution of the working class.
Bolshevik-Leninism is the adherence of genuine Leninism and Marxism, based on the the continuation of Marxism that was theorized by Trotsky and Lenin post 1905 and beyond, and it is up to the followers of the two to study them and the people who came after, such as Cannon, Draper, Bordiga, Dunayevskaya, Lukacs, Grant, and Deutscher to name a few.
Bolshevik-Leninism means the return to the Communism that existed in a genuine form as opposed to the Stalinist falsification of both Leninism and Marxism, a return to the roots of Trotsky and Lenin as great thinkers rather than as prophets.
Reject Dogmatism, Embrace Fluidity
One of the overarching and repeated things i have talked about in this is the effect dogmatism has on Marxism and to that extent Trotskyism as well, and i would like to talk about the role of dialectics and the fluidity of it that is needed to truly appreciate and understand Marxism, it is not simply something you can just say and call out as some kind of buzzword that means anything you want it to as is the case of Dialectical Materialism that has been vulgarized by the Maoists and Stalinists for the last 60 or so years.
So let me first define what dialectics was when theorized by Hegel who originally created it as a way to reaffirm formal logic and syllogism, as a way to explain self consciousness and the interconnectivity of all being when it comes to said consciousness or as he says in Phenomenology of mind
“SELF-CONSCIOUSNESS exists in itself and for itself, in that, and by the fact that it exists for another self-consciousness; that is to say, it is only by being acknowledged or “recognized”. The conception of this its unity in its duplication, of infinitude realizing itself in self-consciousness, has many sides to it and encloses within it elements of varied significance. Thus its moments must on the one hand be strictly kept apart in detailed distinctiveness, and, on the other, in this distinction must, at the same time, also be taken as not distinguished, or must always be accepted and understood in their opposite sense. This double meaning of what is distinguished lies in the nature of self-consciousness: — of its being infinite, or directly the opposite of the determinateness in which it is fixed. The detailed exposition of the notion of this spiritual unity in its duplication will bring before us the process of Recognition.”
To hegel the only way to really understand being was through the lens of syllogism and formal logic which he tries to correct, if something shares the characteristics of A and looks like A then it must be A, he simply added that A exists as a concept because it exists in comparison to B which exists besides A but is not A, one of the best examples of this relation is Hegel’s Master-Slave dialectic which uses the relation between the a Slave and his master.
Because the slave exists because of its relation to the master(the master owning the slave) then if the slave were to kill his master then it would cease to exist as the slave, and if the master were to do the same and kill the slave then it would cease to be a master, so it must continues to hold the slave in bondage because it’s self conscious exists because of the existence of the slave, as Hegel also puts it
“And since the master, is (a) qua notion of self-consciousness, an immediate relation of self-existence, but (b) is now moreover at the same time mediation, or a being-for-self which is for itself only through an other — he [the master] stands in relation (a) immediately to both, (b) mediately to each through the other. The master relates himself to the bondsman mediately through independent existence, for that is precisely what keeps the bondsman in thrall; it is his chain, from which he could not in the struggle get away, and for that reason he proved himself to be dependent, to have his independence in the shape of thinghood. The master, however, is the power controlling this state of existence, for he has shown in the struggle that he holds it to be merely something negative. Since he is the power dominating existence, while this existence again is the power controlling the other [the bondsman], the master holds, par consequence, this other in subordination. In the same way the master relates himself to the thing mediately through the bondsman. The bondsman being a self-consciousness in the broad sense, also takes up a negative attitude to things and cancels them; but the thing is, at the same time, independent for him and, in consequence, he cannot, with all his negating, get so far as to annihilate it outright and be done with it; that is to say, he merely works on it. To the master, on the other hand, by means of this mediating process, belongs the immediate relation, in the sense of the pure negation of it, in other words he gets the enjoyment.”
“It shows the dialectic movement, which is sense-certainty, perception, and understanding. It shows, too, the unessentiality of that which holds good in the relation of master and servant, and which for abstract thought itself passes as determinate. That relation involves, at the same time, a determinate situation, in which there are found even moral laws, as commands of the sovereign lord. The determinations in abstract thought, however, are scientific notions, into which formal contentless thought expands itself, attaching the notion, as a matter of fact in merely an external fashion, to the existence independent of it, and holding as valid only determinate notions, albeit they are still pure abstractions.”
Although Hegel sums up this point here
“Dialectic as a negative process, taken immediately as it stands, appears to consciousness, in the first instance, as something at the mercy of which it is, and which does not exist through consciousness itself. In Scepticism, on the other hand, this negative process is a moment of self-consciousness, which does not simply find its truth and its reality vanish, without self-consciousness knowing how, but rather which, in the certainty of its own freedom, itself makes this other, so claiming to be real, vanish. Self-consciousness here not only makes the objective as such to disappear before the negations of Scepticism but also its own function in relation to the object, where the object is held to be objective and made good — i.e. its function of perceiving as also its process of securing what is in danger of being lost, viz. sophistry and its self-constituted and self-established truth. By means of this self-conscious negation, self-consciousness procures for itself the certainty of its own freedom, brings about the experience of that freedom, and thereby raises it into the truth. What vanishes is what is determinate, the difference which, no matter what its nature or whence it comes, sets up to be fixed and unchangeable.”
So as we defined Hegel’s conception of dialectics it’s important for me to now explain the flaws of this definition that was created by Hegel, one of those flaws is his adherence to idealism and syllogism which is unable to answer the questions of actual existence, it is unable to define the subtleties that exist within nature and society, as with self consciousness he does not realize that it is the Human subject that creates the relation which creates the new consciousness between the slave and the master, something existed before the master and will exist when the master dies and the relation is broken.
This is what Marx did in his break with Hegelian dialectics after realizing the incomplete nature of it, he turned it on its head by saying that it wasn’t the relations that created human conception but rather it was human conception that creates the relations, Marx also correctly said that the only way to understand Dialectics is when applied to materialism and humanism, and Materialism is only revolutionary when it is seen through the glasses of Dialectics.
“My dialectic method is not only different from the Hegelian, but is its direct opposite. To Hegel, the life-process of the human brain, i.e., the process of thinking, which, under the name of “the Idea,” he even transforms into an independent subject, is the demiurgos of the real world, and the real world is only the external, phenomenal form of “the Idea.” With me, on the contrary, the ideal is nothing else than the material world reflected by the human mind, and translated into forms of thought.”
This was confirmed as true when Darwin put forward his theory of evolution, that species and nature do not exist in a static form of existence but rather existed in a constant state of motion and interconnection with the rest of itself rather, in opposition to the belief that things existed in a vacuum that exists within itself the fact that existence does not have a start or ending, it does not exist within itself but because of the relations it has around it, the fact that existence does not have a start or ending.
Nature does not exist within itself but because of the relations it has around it, much like how fish have gills to breathe underwater and dolphins can also breathe underwater but they don’t have gills, if we were to say that only fish can breath underwater this would be incorrect because dolphin are not fish, they are mammals, the dolphin developed its ability to breath underwater due to its relation to living underwater, it developed separate to fish but still came to a similar point of Survival.
as Engels wrote in one of his best works of philosophy” Dialectics of Nature”
“Nature is the proof of dialectics, and it must be said for modern science that it has furnished this proof with very rich materials increasingly daily, and thus has shown that, in the last resort, Nature works dialectically and not metaphysically; that she does not move in the eternal oneness of a perpetually recurring circle, but goes through a real historical evolution. In this connection, Darwin must be named before all others. He dealt the metaphysical conception of Nature the heaviest blow by his proof that all organic beings, plants, animals, and man himself, are the products of a process of evolution going on through millions of years. But, the naturalists, who have learned to think dialectically, are few and far between, and this conflict of the results of discovery with preconceived modes of thinking, explains the endless confusion now reigning in theoretical natural science, the despair of teachers as well as learners, of authors and readers alike.”
“Further, we find upon closer investigation that the two poles of an antithesis, positive and negative, e.g., are as inseparable as they are opposed, and that despite all their opposition, they mutually interpenetrate. And we find, in like manner, that cause and effect are conceptions which only hold good in their application to individual cases; but as soon as we consider the individual cases in their general connection with the universe as a whole, they run into each other, and they become confounded when we contemplate that universal action and reaction in which causes and effects are eternally changing places, so that what is effect here and now will be cause there and then, and vice versa.”
Now that definition is out of the way i can say what i mean by understanding Dialectics as a fluid being rather than in the static form it has taken since Mao wrote his “original” and class collaborationist classic “on contradictions”, I refuse to mention the travesty that was Stalin’s “dialectical materialism and historical materialism” as that is worth an independent analysis of its own, Dialectical Materialism has become a buzzword used by the stalinists to justify their falsifications and opportunistic ideology by just saying “well all things exist in a matter of contradiction, so its ok that i side with the bourgeoisie, they are revolutionary now because the japanese bourgeoise have just invaded us” it is not that simple as dialectics does not simply mean that something can just change when the base contradiction of existence still exists, the Chinese Bourgeoisie were just as revolutionary as they were before the japanese invaded because the base contradiction still existed between them and the Proletariat, just like how a wolf will still try and hunt the deer even if there is a hunter in the area.
Marxism as an ideology cannot exist in a static form, it must exist dialectically, as something that is always changing and taking new form, it must be fluid rather than a solid, this has been proven almost inconsequencly by the failure of the old who were trying to uphold their own interpretation of what “marx meant” but it is clear what Marx meant and what marx did not mean by just simply reading Marx, all you are doing is keeping Marx in a state of rigor mortis where you uphold an interpretation rather than a clear understanding of what Marx says, and it is hard i will admit not to see this as dogmatism when i am saying we must read marx word for word rather than reading between the lines, but i am not advocating that, i’m advocating we should read Marx and Engels and all the other people who studied under the two before simply stating a acidic regurgitation of them, we must study Marx before we can truly make a Marxist analysis.
Fluidity(Dialectical Motion) is the only real way to understand the world, the things that drive it, much as how a river is in constant motion and changing but the base of said river does not change, it will continue to exist even if the fish die and the river begins to create tributaries, it is not until all the water dries and completely destroys the base that the river will stop being a river and become something else.