Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

October 31, 2011

Capitalist society illustrated

Filed under: anti-capitalism — louisproyect @ 3:21 am

10 Comments »

  1. “Capitalism is the exploitation of man by man. Communism is just the opposite.”

    Comment by Manuel Garcia, Jr. — October 31, 2011 @ 10:57 am

  2. Somebody forgot the subsidiary poop stream leading from Corporations to the Media, which passes through the stretch of lower intestine known as Well-Funded Neoliberal Thinktanks.

    Comment by TheStone — October 31, 2011 @ 11:24 am

  3. Trickle-down.

    Comment by Jim Holstun — October 31, 2011 @ 2:09 pm

  4. Human Centipede!

    Comment by Who? — October 31, 2011 @ 5:59 pm

  5. The dictator and his peasants.

    The King and the commoners.

    The CEO and the sweatshop laborers.

    The farm owner and the peach pickers.

    The fabric manufacturer and the slave garment workers.

    Ain’t America great?

    We are a nation that endorses indentured servitude.

    Free the slaves, GO OCCUPY.

    Comment by Deborah Jeffries — November 1, 2011 @ 3:48 am

  6. While I greatly respect Manuel Garcia, Jr., his clever yet unoriginal joke that: “Capitalism is the exploitation of man by man. Communism is just the opposite” is ahistorical nonsense and I call Bullshit.

    What comrade Garcia underestimates, understandable coming from a CP backround, albeit a more sensible Cuban one, despite the Moralists of the GPU aka KBG, is a deliberate ignoring of Trotsky’s analysis of “The Revolution Betrayed” which he apparently wasn’t allowed to read as a youth.

    That’s a shame because if he had he might have recognized something more than the “common sense” precepts of his neat little Orwellian joke that could just have easily been a line in the movie Catch 22.

    The problem with such a “commen sense” approach to politics is that it’s devoid of historical context and therefore the conditions that shaped its reality.

    Let me refer to what was said by the original general of The Red Army:

    http://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1938/morals/morals.htm

    “The Crisis in Democratic Morality:

    In order to guarantee the triumph of their interests in big questions, the ruling classes are constrained to make concessions on secondary questions, naturally only so long as these concessions are reconciled in the bookkeeping. During the epoch of capitalistic upsurge especially in the last few decades before the World War these concessions, at least in relation to the top layers of the proletariat, were of a completely genuine nature. Industry at that time expanded almost uninterruptedly. The prosperity of the civilized nations, partially, too, that of the toiling masses increased. Democracy appeared solid. Workers’ organizations grew. At the same time reformist tendencies deepened. The relations between the classes softened, at least outwardly. Thus certain elementary moral precepts in social relations were established along with the norms of democracy and the habits of class collaboration. The impression was created of an ever more free, more just, and more humane society. The rising line of progress seemed infinite to “common sense.’

    Instead, however, war broke out with a train of convulsions, crises, catastrophes, epidemics, and bestiality. The economic life of mankind landed in an impasse. The class antagonisms became sharp and naked. The safety valves of democracy began to explode one after the other. The elementary moral precepts seemed even more fragile than the democratic institutions and reformist illusions. Mendacity, slander, bribery, venality, coercion, murder grew to unprecedented dimensions. To a stunned simpleton all these vexations seem a temporary result of war. Actually they are manifestations of imperialist decline. The decay of capitalism denotes the decay of contemporary society with its right and its morals.

    The “synthesis” of imperialist turpitude is fascism directly begotten of the bankruptcy of bourgeois democracy before the problems of the imperialist epoch. Remnants of democracy continue still to exist only in the rich capitalist aristocracies: for each “democrat” in England, France, Holland, Belgium there is a certain number of colonial slaves; “60 Families” dominate the democracy of the United States, and so forth. Moreover, shoots of fascism grow rapidly in all democracies. Stalinism in its turn is the product of imperialist pressure upon a backward and isolated workers” state, a symmetrical complement in its own genre to fascism.

    While idealistic Philistines – anarchists of course occupy first place tirelessly unmask Marxist “amoralism” in their press, the American trusts, according to John L. Lewis (CIO) are spending not less than $80,000,000 a year on the practical struggle against revolutionary “demoralization”, that is, espionage, bribery of workers, frame-ups, and dark-alley murders. The categorical imperative sometimes chooses circuitous ways for its triumph!

    Let us note in justice that the most sincere and at the same time the most limited petty bourgeois moralists still live even today in the idealized memories of yesterday and hope for its return. They do not understand that morality is a function of the class struggle; that democratic morality corresponds to the epoch of liberal and progressive capitalism; that the sharpening of the class struggle in passing through its latest phase definitively and irrevocably destroyed this morality; that in its place came the morality of fascism on one side, on the other the morality of proletarian revolution.

    “Common Sense”

    Democracy and “generally recognized” morality are not the only victims of imperialism. The third suffering martyr is “universal” common sense. This lowest form of the intellect is not only necessary under all conditions but under certain conditions is also adequate. Common sense’s basic capital consists of the elementary conclusions of universal experience: not to put one’s fingers in fire, whenever possible to proceed along a straight line, not to tease vicious dogs … and so forth and so on. Under a stable social milieu common sense is adequate for bargaining, healing, writing articles, leading trade unions, voting in parliament, marrying and reproducing the race. But when that same common sense attempts to go beyond its valid limits into the arena of more complex generalizations, it is exposed as just a clot of prejudices of a definite class and a definite epoch. No more than a simple capitalist crisis brings common sense to an impasse; and before such catastrophes as revolution, counter-revolution and war, common sense proves a perfect fool. In order to realize the catastrophic transgressions against the “normal” course of events higher qualities of intellect are necessary, philosophically expressed as yet only by dialectic materialism.

    Max Eastman, who successfully attempts to endow “common sense” with a most attractive literary style, has fashioned out of the struggle against dialectics nothing less than a profession for himself. Eastman seriously takes the conservative banalities of common sense wedded to good style as “the science of revolution”. Supporting the reactionary snobs of Common Sense, he expounds to mankind with inimitable assurance that if Trotsky had been guided not by Marxist doctrine but by common sense then he would not have lost power. That inner dialectic which until now has appeared in the inevitable succession of determined stages in all revolutions does not exist for Eastman. Reaction displacing revolution, to him, is determined through insufficient respect for common sense. Eastman does not understand that it is Stalin who in a historical sense fell victim to common sense, that is, its inadequacy, since that power which he possesses serves ends hostile to Bolshevism. Marxist doctrine, on the other hand, permitted us to tear away in time from the Thermidorian bureaucracy and to continue to serve the ends of international socialism.

    Every science, and in that sense also the “science of revolution” is controlled by experience. Since Eastman well knows how to maintain revolutionary power under the condition of world counter-revolution, then he also knows, we may hope, how to conquer power. It would be very desirable that he finally disclose his secrets. Best of all that it be done in the form of a draft program for a revolutionary party under the title: How to Conquer and Hold Power. We fear, however, that it is precisely common sense which will urge Eastman to refrain from such a risky undertaking. And this time common sense will be right.

    Marxist doctrine, which Eastman, alas, never understood, permitted us to foresee the inevitability under certain historic conditions of the Soviet Thermidor with all its coil of crimes. That same doctrine long ago predicted the inevitability of the downfall of bourgeois democracy and its morality. However the doctrinaires of “common sense” were caught unaware by fascism and Stalinism. Common sense operates on invariable magnitudes in a world where only change is invariable. Dialectics, on the contrary, takes all phenomena, institutions, and norms in their rise, development and decay. The dialectical consideration of morals as a subservient and transient product of the class struggle seems to common sense an “amoralism”. But there is nothing more flat, stale, self-satisfied and cynical than the moral rules of common sense!”
    Moralists and the GPU

    The Moscow trials provided the occasion for a crusade against Bolshevik “amoralism”. However, the crusade was not opened at once. The truth is that in their majority the moralists, directly or indirectly, were friends of the Kremlin. As such they long attempted to hide their amazement and even feigned that nothing unusual had occurred.

    But the Moscow trials were not at all an accident. Servile obedience, hypocrisy, the official cult of mendacity, bribery, and other forms of corruption had already begun to blossom ostentatiously in Moscow by 1924-1925. The future judicial frame-ups were being prepared openly before the eyes of the whole world. There was no lack of warning. The “friends”, however, did not wish to notice anything. No wonder: the majority of these gentlemen, in their time irreconcilably hostile to the October Revolution, became friends of the Soviet Union merely at the rate of its Thermidorian degeneration – the petty bourgeois democrats of the West recognized in the petty bourgeois bureaucracy of the East a kindred soul.

    Did these people really believe the Moscow accusations? Only the most obtuse. The others did not wish to alarm themselves by verification. Is it reasonable to infringe upon the flattering, comfortable, and often well-paying friendship with the Soviet embassies? Moreover, they did not forget this indiscreet truth can injure the prestige of the U.S.S.R. These people screened the crimes by utilitarian considerations, that is, frankly applied the principle, “the end justifies the means.”

    The King’s Counselor, Pritt, who succeeded with timeliness in peering under the chiton of the Stalinist Themis and there discovered everything in order, took upon himself the shameless initiative. Romain Rolland, whose moral authority is highly evaluated by the Soviet publishing house bookkeepers, hastened to proclaim one of his manifestos where melancholy lyricism unites with senile cynicism. The French League for the Rights of Man, which thundered about the “amoralism of Lenin and Trotsky” in 1917 when they broke the military alliance with France, hastened to screen Stalin’s crimes in 1936 in the interests of the Franco-Soviet pact. A patriotic end justifies, as is known, any means. The Nation and The New Republic closed their eyes to Yagoda’s exploits since their “friendship” with the USSR guaranteed their own authority. Yet only a year ago these gentlemen did not at all declare Stalinism and Trotskyism to be one and the same. They openly stood for Stalin, for his realism, for his justice and for his Yagoda. They clung to this position as long as they could.

    Until the moment of the execution of Tukhachevsky, Yakir, and the others, the big bourgeoisie of the democratic countries, not without pleasure, though blanketed with fastidiousness, watched the execution of the revolutionists in the USSR. In this sense The Nation and The New Republic, not to speak of Duranty, Louis Fischer, and their kindred prostitutes of the pen, fully responded to the interests of “democratic” imperialism. The execution of the generals alarmed the bourgeoisie, compelling them to understand that the advanced disintegration of the Stalinist apparatus lightened the tasks of Hitler, Mussolini and the Mikado. The New York Times cautiously but insistently began to correct its own Duranty. The Paris Le Temps opened its columns slightly to shedding light upon the actual situation in the USSR. As for the petty bourgeois moralists and sycophants, they were never anything but servile echoes of the capitalist class. Moreover, after the International Commission of Inquiry, headed by John Dewey, brought out its verdict it became clear to every person who thought even a trifle that further open defense of the GPU signified peril of political and moral death. Only at this moment did the “friends” decide to bring the eternal moral truths into god’s world, that is, to fall hack to the second line trench.

    Frightened Stalinists and semi-Stalinists occupy not the last place among moralists. Eugene Lyons during several years cohabited nicely with the Thermidorian clique, considering himself almost a Bolshevik. Withdrawing from the Kremlin – for a reason that is to us a matter of indifference – he rose, of course, immediately into the clouds of idealism. Liston Oak until recently enjoyed such confidence from the Comintern that it entrusted him with conducting the English propaganda for republican Spain. This did not, naturally, hinder him, once he had relinquished his post, from likewise relinquishing the Marxist alphabet. Expatriate Walter Krivitsky, having broken with the GPU, immediately joined the bourgeois democracy. Evidently this too is the metamorphosis of the very aged Charles Rappoport. Having tossed Stalinism overboard, people of such ilk – they are many – cannot help seeking indemnification in the postulates of abstract morality for the disillusionment and abasement of ideals they have experienced. Ask them: “Why have you switched from the Comintern or GPU ranks to the camp of the bourgeoisie?” They have a ready answer: “Trotskyism is no better than Stalinism.”

    The Disposition of Political Chessmen

    “Trotskyism is revolutionary romanticism; Stalinism – practical polities.” Of this banal contraposition with which the average Philistine until yesterday justified his friendship with Thermidor against the revolution, there remains not a trace today. Trotskyism and Stalinism are in general no longer counterpoised but identified. They are identified, however, only in form not in essence. Having recoiled to the meridian of the “categorical imperative”, the democrats actually continue to defend the G.P.U. except with greater camouflage and perfidy. He who slanders the victim aids the executioner. In this case, as in others, morality serves politics.

    The democratic Philistine and Stalinist bureaucrat are, if not twins, brothers in spirit. In any case they belong politically to the same camp. The present governmental system of France and if we add the anarchists of republican Spain is based on the collaboration of Stalinists, social-democrats, and liberals. If the British Independent Labor Party appears roughed up it is because for a number of years it has not withdrawn from the embrace of the Comintern. The French Socialist Party expelled the Trotskyists from their ranks exactly when it prepared to fuse with the Stalinists If the fusion did not materialize, it was not because of principled divergences – what remains of them ? – but only because of the fear of the social-democratic careerists over their posts. Having returned from Spain, Norman Thomas declared that “objectively” the Trotskyists help Franco, and with this subjective absurdity he gave “objective” service to the GPU executioners. This righteous man expelled the American “Trotskyists” from his party precisely as the GPU shot down their co-thinkers in the USSR and in Spain. In many democratic countries, the Stalinists in spite of their “amoralism” have penetrated into the government apparatus not without success. In the trade unions they cohabit nicely with bureaucrats of other hues. True, the Stalinists have an extremely light minded attitude toward the criminal code and in that way frighten away their “democratic” friends in peaceful times; but in exceptional circumstances, as indicated by the example of Spain, they more surely become the leaders of the petty bourgeoisie against the proletariat.

    The Second and Amsterdam Internationals naturally did not take upon themselves the responsibility for the frame-ups; this work they left to the Comintern. They themselves kept quiet. Privately they explained that from a “moral” point of view they were against Stalin, but from a political point of view, for him. Only when the People’s Front in France cracked irreparably and forced the socialists to think about tomorrow did Leon Blum find at the bottom of his inkwell the necessary formulas for moral abhorrence.

    If Otto Bauer mildly condemned Vyshinsky’s justice it was only in order to support Stalin’s politics with greater “impartiality”. The fate of socialism, according to Bauer’s recent declaration, is tied with the fate of the Soviet Union. “And the fate of the Soviet Union”, he continues, “is the fate of Stalinism so long as [!] the inner development of the Soviet Union itself does not overcome the Stalinist phase of development.” All of Baner is contained in this remarkable sentence, all of Austro-Marxism, the whole mendacity and rot of the social-democracy! “So long as” the Stalinist bureaucracy is sufficiently strong to murder the progressive representatives of the “inner development”, until then Baner sticks with Stalin. When in spite of Bauer the revolutionary forces overthrow Stalin, then Bauer will generously recognize the “inner development’ – with not more than ten years delay.

    Behind the old Internationals, the London Bureau of the centrists trails along, happily combining in itself the characteristics of a kindergarten, a school for mentally arrested adolescents, and a home for invalids. The secretary of the Bureau, Fenner Brockway, began with the declaration that an inquiry into the Moscow trials could “harm the USSR” and proposed instead an investigation into … the political activity of Trotsky through an “impartial” Commission of five irreconcilable enemies of Trotsky. Brandler and Lovestone publicly solidarized with Yagoda; they retreated only from Yezhov. Jacob Walcher, upon an obviously false pretext, refused to give testimony which was unfavorable to Stalin before the International Commission headed by John Dewey. The putrid morals of these people is only a product of their putrid politics.

    But perhaps the most lamentable role is that played by the anarchists. If Stalinism and Trotskyism are one and the same, as they affirm in every sentence, then why do the Spanish anarchists assist the Stalinists in revenging themselves upon the Trotskyists and at the same time upon the revolutionary anarchists? The more frank anarchist theoreticians respond: this is payment for armaments. In other words: the end justifies the means. But what is their end? Anarchism? Socialism? No, merely the salvaging of this very same bourgeois democracy which prepared fascism’s success. To base ends correspond base means.

    That is the real disposition of the figures on the world political board!

    Stalinism – A Product of the Old Society

    Russia took the greatest leap in history, a leap in which the most progressive forces of the country found their expression. Now in the current reaction, the sweep of which is proportionate to the sweep of the revolution, backwardness is taking its revenge. Stalinism embodies this reaction. The barbarism of old Russian history upon new social bases seems yet more disgusting since it is constrained to conceal itself in hypocrisy unprecedented in history.

    The liberals and the social-democrats of the West, who were constrained by the Russian Revolution into doubt about their rotted ideas, now experienced a fresh influx of courage. The moral gangrene of the Soviet bureaucracy seemed to them the rehabilitation of liberalism. Stereotyped copybooks are drawn out into the light: “every dictatorship contains the seeds of its own degeneration”; “only democracy guarantees the development of personality”; and so forth. The contrasting of democracy and dictatorship, including in the given case a condemnation of socialism in favor of the bourgeois regime, stuns one from the point of view of theory by its illiterateness and unscrupulousness. The Stalinist pollution, a historical reality, is counterpoised to democracy – a supra-historical abstraction. But democracy also possesses a history in which there is no lack of pollution. In order to characterize Soviet bureaucracy we have borrowed the names of “Thermidor” and “Bonapartism” from the history of bourgeois democracy because – let this be known to the retarded liberal doctrinaires – democracy came into the world not at all through the democratic road. Only a vulgar mentality can satisfy itself by chewing on the theme that Bonapartism was the “natural offspring” of Jacobinism, the historical punishment for infringing upon democracy, and so on. Without the Jacobin retribution upon feudalism, bourgeois democracy would have been absolutely unthinkable. Contrasting to the concrete historical stages of Jacobinism, Thermidor, Bonapartism the idealized abstraction of “democracy”, is as vicious as contrasting the pains of childbirth to a living infant.

    Stalinism in turn is not an abstraction of “dictatorship”, but an immense bureaucratic reaction against the proletarian dictatorship in a backward and isolated country. The October Revolution abolished privileges, waged war against social inequality, replaced the bureaucracy with self-government of the toilers, abolished secret diplomacy, strove to render all social relationship completely transparent. Stalinism reestablished the most offensive forms of privileges, imbued inequality with a provocative character, strangled mass self-activity under police absolutism, transformed administration into a monopoly of the Kremlin oligarchy and regenerated the fetishism of power in forms that absolute monarchy dared not dream of.

    Social reaction in all forms is constrained to mask its real aims. The sharper the transition from revolution to reaction; the more the reaction is dependent upon the traditions of revolution, that is, the greater its fear of the masses – the more is it forced to resort to mendacity and frame-up in the struggle against the representatives of the revolution. Stalinist frame-ups are not a fruit of Bolshevik “amoralism”; no, like all important events in history, they are a product of the concrete social struggle, and the most perfidious and severest of all at that: the struggle of a new aristocracy against the masses that raised it to power.

    Verily boundless intellectual and moral obtuseness is required to identify the reactionary police morality of Stalinism with the revolutionary morality of the Bolsheviks. Lenin’s party has long ceased to exist – it was shattered between inner difficulties and world imperialism. In its place rose the Stalinist bureaucracy, transmissive mechanism of imperialism. The bureaucracy substituted class collaboration for the class struggle on the world arena, social-patriotism for internationalism. In order to adapt the ruling party to the tasks of reaction, the bureaucracy “renewed” its composition through executing revolutionists and recruiting careerists.

    Every reaction regenerates, nourishes and strengthens those elements of the historic past which the revolution struck but which it could not vanquish. The methods of Stalinism bring to the highest tension, to a culmination and at the same time to an absurdity all those methods of untruth, brutality and baseness which constitute the mechanics of control in every class society including also that of democracy. Stalinism is a single clot of all monstrosities of the historical State, its most malicious caricature and disgusting grimace. When the representatives of old society puritanically counterpoise a sterilized democratic abstraction to the gangrene of Stalinism, we can with full justice recommend to them, as to all of old society, that they fall enamored of them. selves in the warped mirror of Soviet Thermidor. True, the GPU far surpasses all other regimes in the nakedness of its crimes. But this flows from the immense amplitude of events shaking Russia under the influence of world imperialist demoralization.

    Among the liberals and radicals there are not a few individuals who have assimilated the methods of the materialist interpretation of events and who consider themselves Marxists. This does not hinder them, however, from remaining bourgeois journalists, professors or politicians. A Bolshevik is inconceivable, of course, without the materialist method, in the sphere of morality too. But this method serves him not solely for the interpretation of events but rather for the creation of a revolutionary party of the proletariat. It is impossible to accomplish this task without complete independence from the bourgeoisie and their morality. Yet bourgeois public opinion actually now reigns in full sway over the official workers” movement from William Green in the United States, Leon Blum and Maurice Thorez in France, to Garcia Oliver in Spain. In this fact the reactionary character of the present period reaches its sharpest expression.

    A revolutionary Marxist cannot begin to approach his historical mission without having broken morally from bourgeois public opinion and its agencies in the proletariat. For this, moral courage of a different caliber is required than that of opening wide one’s mouth at meetings and yelling, “Down with Hitler!” “Down with Franco!” It is precisely this resolute, completely thought out, inflexible rupture of the Bolsheviks from conservative moral philosophy not only of the big but of the petty bourgeoisie which mortally terrorizes democratic phrase-mongers, drawing room prophets and lobbying heroes. From this is derived their complaints about the “amoralism” of the Bolsheviks.

    Their identification of bourgeois morals with morals “in general” can best of all, perhaps, be verified at the extreme left wing of the petty bourgeoisie, precisely in the centrist parties of the so-called London Bureau. Since this organization “recognizes” the program of proletarian revolution, our disagreements with it seem, at first glance, secondary. Actually their “recognition” is valueless because it does not bind them to anything. They “recognize” the proletarian revolution as the Kantians recognized the categorical imperative, that is, as a holy principle but not applicable to daily life. In the sphere of practical politics they unite with the worst enemies of the revolution (reformists and Stalinists) for the struggle against us. All their thinking is permeated with duplicity and falsehood. If the centrists, according to a general rule, do not raise themselves to imposing crimes it is only because they forever remain in the byways of politics: they are, so to speak, petty pick-pockets of history. For this reason they consider themselves called upon to regenerate the workers” movement with a new morality.

    At the extreme left wing of this “left” fraternity stands a small and politically completely insignificant grouping of German emigre’s who publish the paper Neuer Weg (The New Road) – Let us bend down lower and listen to these “revolutionary” indicters of Bolshevik amoralism. In a tone of ambiguous pseudo-praise the Neuer Weg proclaims that the Bolsheviks are distinguished advantageously from other parties by their absence of hypocrisy – they openly declare what others quietly apply in fact, that is, the principle: “the end justifies the means”. But according to the convictions of Neuer Weg such a “bourgeois” precept is incompatible with a “healthy socialist movement”. “Lying and worse are not permissible means of struggle, as Lenin still considered.” The word “still’ evidently signifies that Lenin did not succeed in overcoming his delusions only because he failed to live until the discovery of The New Road.

    In the formula, “lying and worse”, “worse” evidently signifies violence, murder, and so on, since under equal conditions violence is worse than lying; and murder – the most extreme form of violence. We thus come to the conclusion that lying, violence, murder are incompatible with a “healthy socialist movement”. What, however, is our relation to revolution? Civil war is the most severe of all forms of war. It is unthinkable not only without violence against tertiary figures but, under contemporary technique, without murdering old men, old women and children. Must one be reminded of Spain? The only possible answer of the “friends” of republican Spain sounds like this: civil war is better than fascist slavery. But this completely correct answer merely signifies that the end (democracy or socialism) justifies, under certain conditions, such means as violence and murder. Not to speak about lies! Without lies war would be as unimaginable as a machine without oil. In order to safeguard even the session of the Cortes (February 1, 1938) from Fascist bombs the Barcelona government several times deliberately deceived journalists and their own population. Could it have acted in any other way? Whoever accepts the end: victory over Franco, must accept the means: civil war with its wake of horrors and crimes.

    Nevertheless, lying and violence “in themselves” warrant condemnation? Of course, even as does the class society which generates them. A society without social contradictions will naturally be a society without lies and violence. However there is no way of building a bridge to that society save by revolutionary, that is, violent means. The revolution itself is a product of class society and of necessity bears its traits. From the point of view of “eternal truths’ revolution is of course “anti-moral”. But this merely means that idealist morality is counter-revolutionary, that is, in the service of the exploiters.

    “Civil war”, will perhaps respond the philosopher caught unawares, “is however a sad exception. But in peaceful times a healthy socialist movement should manage without violence and lying.” Such an answer however represents nothing less than a pathetic evasion. There is no impervious demarcation between “peaceful” class struggle and revolution. Every strike embodies in an unexpanded form all the elements of civil war. Each side strives to impress the opponent with an exaggerated representation of its resoluteness to struggle and its material resources. Through their press, agents, and spies the capitalists labor to frighten and demoralize the strikers. From their side, the workers” pickets, where persuasion does not avail, are compelled to resort to force. Thus “lie and worse” are an inseparable part of the class struggle even in its most elementary form. It remains to be added that the very conception of truth and lie was born of social contradictions.

    Revolution and the Institution of Hostages

    Stalin arrests and shoots the children of his opponents after these opponents have been themselves executed under false accusations. With the help of the institution of family hostages Stalin compels those Soviet diplomats to return from abroad who permitted themselves an expression of doubt upon the infallibility of Yagoda or Yezhov. The moralists of Neuer Weg consider it necessary and timely to remind us on this occasion of the fact that Trotsky in 1919 “also’ introduced a law upon hostages. But here it becomes necessary to quote literally: “The detention of innocent relatives by Stalin is disgusting barbarism. But it remains a barbarism as well when it was dictated by Trotsky (1919).” Here is the idealistic moralist in all his beauty! His criteria are as false as the norms of bourgeois democracy – in both cases parity is supposed where in actuality there is not even a trace of it.

    We will not insist here upon the fact that the Decree of 1919 led scarcely to even one execution of relatives of those commanders whose perfidy not only caused the loss of innumerable human lives but threatened the revolution itself with direct annihilation. The question in the end does not concern that. If the revolution had displayed less superfluous generosity from the very beginning, hundreds of thousands of lives would have been saved. Thus or otherwise I carry full responsibility for the Decree of 1919. It was a necessary measure in the struggle against the oppressors. Only in the historical content of the struggle lies the justification of the decree as in general the justification of the whole civil war which, too, can be called, not without foundation, “disgusting barbarism”.

    We leave to some Emil Ludwig or his ilk the drawing of Abraham Lincoln’s portrait with rosy little wings. Lincoln’s significance lies in his not hesitating before the most severe means once they were found to be necessary in achieving a great historic aim posed by the development of a young nation. The question lies not even in which of the warring camps caused or itself suffered the greatest number of victims. History has different yardsticks for the cruelty of the Northerners and the cruelty of the Southerners in the Civil War. A slave-owner who through cunning and violence shackles a slave in chains, and a slave who through cunning or violence breaks the chains – let not the contemptible eunuchs tell us that they are equals before a court of morality!

    After the Paris Commune had been drowned in blood and the reactionary knaves of the whole world dragged its banner in the filth of vilification and slander, there were not a few democratic Philistines who, adapting themselves to reaction, slandered the Communards for shooting 64 hostages headed by the Paris archbishop. Marx did not hesitate a moment in defending this bloody act of the Commune. In a circular issued by the General Council of the First International, in which seethes the fiery eruption of lava, Marx first reminds us of the bourgeoisie adopting the institution of hostages in the struggle against both colonial peoples and their own toiling masses and afterwards refers to the systematic execution of the Commune captives by the frenzied reactionaries, continuing: “.:. the Commune, to protect their [the captives’] lives, was obliged to resort to the Prussian practice of securing hostages. The lives of the hostages had been forfeited over and over again by the continued shooting of prisoners on the part of the Versailles. How could they be spared any longer after the carnage with which MacMahon’s Praetorians celebrated their entry into Paris? Was even the last check upon the unscrupulous ferocity of bourgeois governments – the taking of hostages to be made a mere sham of?” Thus Marx defended the execution of hostages although behind his back in the General Council sat not a few Fenner Brockways, Norman Thomases and other Otto Bauers. But so fresh was the indignation of the world proletariat against the ferocity of the Versailles that the reactionary moralistic bunglers preferred to keep silent in expectation of times more favorable to them which, alas, were not slow in appearing. Only after the definite triumph of reaction did the petty bourgeois moralists, together with the trade union bureaucrats and the anarchist phrase-mongers destroy the First International.

    When the October Revolution was defending itself against the united forces of imperialism on a 5,000 mile front, the workers of the whole world followed the course of the struggle with such ardent sympathy that in their forums it was extremely risky to indict the “disgusting barbarism” of the institution of hostages. Complete degeneration of the Soviet State and the triumph of reaction in a number of countries was necessary before the moralists crawled out of their crevices – to aid Stalin. If it is true that the reparations safeguarding the privileges of the new aristocracy have the same moral value as the revolutionary measures of the liberating struggle, then Stalin is completely justified, if – if the proletarian revolution is not completely condemned.

    Seeking examples of immorality in the events of the Russian Civil War, Messrs. Moralists find themselves at the same time constrained to close their eyes to the fact that the Spanish revolution also produced an institution of hostages, at least during that period when it was a genuine revolution of the masses. If the craftiness, in other words, without lying and deceit. May the Gerindicters dare not attack the Spanish workers for their “disgusting barbarism”, it is only because the ground of the Pyrennean peninsula is still too hot for them. It is considerably more convenient to return to 1919. This is already history, the old men have forgotten and the young ones have not yet learned. For the same reason Pharisees of various hues return to Kronstadt and Makhno with such obstinacy – here exists a free outlet for moral effiuvia!”

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — November 2, 2011 @ 7:57 am

  7. It should only be added in today’s contect of the OWS movement that there’s bound to be from the punditry an enormous injection of “moral effluvia” so from the same link above let the movement learn this:

    “Moral Effluvia:

    DURING AN EPOCH OF triumphant reaction, Messrs. democrats, social-democrats, anarchists, and other representatives of the “left” camp begin to exude double their usual amount of moral effluvia, similar to persons who perspire doubly in fear. Paraphrasing the Ten Commandments or the Sermon on the Mount, these moralists address themselves not so much to triumphant reaction as to those revolutionists suffering under its persecution, who with their “excesses” and “amoral” principles “provoke” reaction and give it moral justification. Moreover they prescribe a simple but certain means of avoiding reaction: it is necessary only to strive and morally to regenerate oneself. Free samples of moral perfection for those desirous are furnished by all the interested editorial offices.

    The class basis of this false and pompous sermon is the intellectual petty bourgeoisie. The political basis – their impotence and confusion in the face of approaching reaction. Psychological basis – their effort at overcoming the feeling of their own inferiority through masquerading in the beard of a prophet.

    A moralizing Philistine’s favorite method is the lumping of reaction’s conduct with that of revolution. He achieves success in this device through recourse to formal analogies. To him czarism and Bolshevism are twins. Twins are likewise discovered in fascism and communism. An inventory is compiled of the common features in Catholicism – or more specifically, Jesuitism – and Bolshevism. Hitler and Mussolini, utilizing from their side exactly the same method, disclose that liberalism, democracy, and Bolshevism represent merely different manifestations of one and the same evil. The conception that Stalinism and Trotskyism are “essentially” one and the same now enjoys the joint approval of liberals, democrats, devout Catholics, idealists, pragmatists, and anarchists. If the Stalinists are unable to adhere to this “People’s Front”, then it is only because they are accidentally occupied with the extermination of Trotskyists.

    The fundamental feature of these approchements and similitudes lies in their completely ignoring the material foundation of the various currents, that is, their class nature and by that token their objective historical role. Instead they evaluate and classify different currents according to some external and secondary manifestation, most often according to their relation to one or another abstract principle which for the given classifier has a special professional value. Thus to the Roman pope Freemasons and Darwinists, Marxists and anarchists are twins because all of them sacrilegiously deny the immaculate conception. To Hitler, liberalism and Marxism are twins because they ignore “blood and honor”. To a democrat, fascism and Bolshevism are twins because they do not bow before universal suffrage. And so forth.

    Undoubtedly the currents grouped above have certain common features. But the gist of the matter lies in the fact that the evolution of mankind exhausts itself neither by universal suffrage, not by “blood and honor,” nor by the dogma of the immaculate con ception. The historical process signifies primarily the class struggle; moreover, different classes in the name of different aims may in certain instances utilize similar means. Essentially it cannot be otherwise. Armies in combat are always more or less symmetrical; were there nothing in common in their methods of struggle they could not inflict blows upon each other.

    If an ignorant peasant or shopkeeper, understanding neither the origin nor the sense of the struggle between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, discovers himself between the two fires, he will consider both belligerent camps with equal hatred. And who are all these democratic moralists? Ideologists of intermediary layers who have fallen, or are in fear of falling between the two fires. The chief traits of the prophets of this type are alienism to great historical movements, a hardened conservative mentality, smug narrowness, and a most primitive political cowardice. More than anything moralists wish that history should leave them in peace with their petty books, little magazines, subscribers, common sense, and moral copy books. But history does not leave them in peace. It cuffs them now from the left, now from the right. Clearly – revolution and reaction, Czarism and Bolshevism, communism and fascism, Stalinism and Trotskyism – are all twins. Whoever doubts this may feel the symmetrical skull bumps upon both the right and left sides of these very moralists.”

    Q.E.D.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — November 2, 2011 @ 8:10 am

  8. The bottom line of Garcia’s neat little Orwellian joke in comment #1 is to say that the Russian Revolution had zero (actually negative) political significance — which is demonstrable bullshit.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — November 2, 2011 @ 8:18 am

  9. I can’t remember the last time I could afford a nice plate of warm shit. Not since the bail out anyway.

    Comment by David Ellis — November 2, 2011 @ 8:27 pm

  10. Dear Karl,

    Item #1 was in the spirit of levity. It was graffito seen chalked on walls in Poland and/or Czechoslovakia (I’ve read reports for both) during the 1980s. Notice that the UM posting it is commenting on is also an item of levity. One could object to the original posting and put up a thesis on the many advantages of capitalism for humanity. We, sitting comfortably in our homes in front of computer screens and pontificating on the fate of the world most enjoyably, could be held up as examples of just such beneficiaries. But, the purpose of jokes, like these, is to deflate all such pretensions, “to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable”, to inject a little mirth into the daily grind. Jokes are humanity’s way of expressing surreptitious solidarity under the shadow of ponderous doctrinairism, or religions.

    In 1961 Yuri Gagarin was shot into orbit by the Russians (Soviet Union). During his brief few orbits he gazed out into space throughout the window of his capsule. He radioed back to Earth: “I don’t see any God here”.

    On landing as a world celebrity, Gagarin had many interviews, and the subject of seeing or not seen heaven came up often. The following incidents have been reported, but not confirmed about Gagarin’s interviews:

    Q: “Did you see God, beyond the Earth?”
    A: “Yes, she’s black.”
    (This was reported by a Franciscan friar in 1967)

    Another story:

    Gagarin actually sees a glowing light engulfing his capsule, and beyond it a fantastic pearl-studded gate through which the light is streaming, and within that, a glimpse of radiant, floating bodies, angels! He keeps quiet, figuring it best to not blurt out classified information on the radio during the space flight, he sticks to the script.

    Back home, Khrushchev takes Gagarin aside and asks him

    “Tell me the truth Yuri, did you happen to see heaven when you were up there?”

    “Yes, premier, the truth is I did”

    “Damn! I always thought so. Look Yuri, the people must never know, it will destroy everything we’ve taught them to believe. Promise me you will never reveal this secret, for the good of our country.”

    “I promise.”

    So, Gagarin is sent off on a world tour. He visits the Vatican, and the Pope pulls him aside.

    “Tell me Colonel Gagarin, just between you and me, did you happen to see a heaven up there, any sight of pearly gates, or angels or God?”

    “No your holiness, I am sorry to have to tell you that I saw nothing but the emptiness of space.”

    “Damn!” exclaimed the Pope, “I always thought so.” Then, regaining his composure, “Listen Colonel Gagarin, do me a personal favor, please don’t repeat our conversation, the people must never know, it will destroy everything we’ve taught them to believe.”

    Gagarin, shaken by his awesome responsibilities, preserved the sanctity of the Kremlin and the Vatican to the end.

    Comment by Manuel Garcia, Jr. — November 3, 2011 @ 8:37 pm


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