Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

March 12, 2012

Finding fault with Hugo Chavez

Filed under: Latin America — louisproyect @ 4:20 pm

For the better part of a decade segments of the far left have found fault with governments in Latin America that carry out significant reforms but have failed to abolish capitalism. To some extent, the criticisms have been fueled by the obvious contradictions between the socialist rhetoric of someone like a Hugo Chavez and the socio-economic reality. One cannot escape the feeling that there is a certain recycling of the Bolshevik versus Menshevik/SR narrative in all this despite the fact that the Bolsheviks were a material reality on the ground in Russia in 1917 while the left critics of today have little to offer other than their words.

While it is hard to refute arguments that Venezuela or Bolivia continues to be based on capitalist property relations and that their leftwing governments frequently offer concessions to the native bourgeoisie at the expense of the working class and its allies, perhaps another yardstick is more useful in assessing them. If we bracket out the “21st century socialism” type rhetoric and simply judge their achievements against other governments in Latin America over the past half-century, their grades improve.

When I was first coming around the Trotskyist movement in 1967, I asked an SWP member for some reading recommendations. To his credit, he did not suggest James P. Cannon but had me look at John Gerassi’s “The Great Fear in Latin America”, selections of which can be read here including chapter 17 titled “A Digression: United States — Latin American Inter-History”. There Gerassi writes:

Never has any freely elected candidate from Right, Center, or Left who showed himself the least bit independent of our policies been able to last out his whole term. Always the forces that threw him out have been trained and equipped by and sometimes in the United States. The only exceptions have arisen when popular revolutions had previously destroyed these forces. Thus, the Latin American patriot, the Nationalist, the genuine reformer has had to buck us as well as local oligarchs. Today, if we are to understand him, we must not only accept this fact; we must also realize that to him all our aid, our treaties, our loans, and our military missions are evil.

The Latin American Nationalist has had too many examples of United States intervention in his continent during the last few years to let him forget the long list of our interventions in the past. Memories are short only when suffering is short. Latin Americans’ memories are long because they are still suffering. And any policy that we may adopt, if it is aimed at reconquering Latin America as our friend, must be careful never to forget that such a long list exists. It goes back very far. Let us glance at it rapidly, starting only from the last century, in fact, from 1823 when the Monroe Doctrine was conceived.

If this is the context for evaluating progress in Latin America, the past decade looks pretty good, especially when compared to what is happening in places like Greece and Spain today; but if your yardstick is a socialist ideal, then perhaps not so much.

All this comes to mind when you look at a guest post on the popular Lenin’s Tomb blog by Callum McCormick titled Threshold of the Bolivarian revolution. While McCormick is more charitable toward his subjects than others I have seen in the Trotskyist press, he leaves you with the distinct feeling that Hugo Chavez is a disappointment:

For those who support Chavez and the project of ‘21st century socialism’, the election is something of a crossroads. The long time activist and former member of the Chavez government, Roland Denis, recently said that the project for building an alternative to capitalism had ‘collapsed’. The problem for Chavez is the same one confronting all the governments of the ‘pink tide’ in Latin America. Their elections expressed and promoted a desire for radical social change among the despised masses of Latin America. Their actions in government have often given concrete form to these desires and just as often thwarted them.

The story is an old one. Propelled into government across the continent as part of a deep and general revolt against the IMF imposed ‘structural adjustment’ programs of the 80’s and 90’s, the ‘new left’ is faced with the dilemma of knowing that an alternative is needed but not quite being sure what it is. Socialism is, not the first time, proclaimed everywhere and created nowhere.

Now of course the British SWP has no problem with “the dilemma of knowing that an alternative is needed but not quite being sure what it is.” They would be the first to tell you that Venezuela needs a movement to the left of Chavez that can, as McCormick puts it, “build up the pressure for a fundamental and irreversible transformation of Venezuelan society.” In other words, it needs a Bolshevik type party to supersede the Menshevik figure in power. Just ask Chris Harman:

In the great revolutionary movements of the 20th century, permanent revolution meant workers throwing up their own democratic institutions from below, workers’ councils, and then drawing behind them the rest of the exploited and the oppressed.

The workers, bound together in the workplaces by a common battle against exploitation, found it easier to develop an organic unity in struggle than did the peasants or the urban poor.

Disillusion with the parliamentarians means there is a great deal of talk about “popular power” as an alternative in Venezuela.

But for the first three tendencies it simply means councils elected to mediate between the government and the mass of people.

For the revolution to become truly permanent workers would have to go much further than this. They need to establish their own democratic organs so as to take control of the government, to replace the existing corrupt state structure and to reorganise industry so as to end the poverty and huge inequalities that still characterise Venezuela today.

If you stop and think about it, this is a formula based on what happened in Russia in 1917, something that all Marxists would obviously support. If the choice is between a Chavez presidency that marks time with its bureaucratic and rightwing elements and workers “bound together in the workplaces by a common battle against exploitation”, how can you pick choice A from the menu when there is choice B? Especially when choice B comes with a complementary bottle of wine?

Missing entirely from Harman’s analogy with 1917 is an understanding of how the Bolsheviks became a party with the political and moral authority to supersede Kerensky. Why have groups that emerged out of the Trotskyist movement, including Tony Cliff’s, never achieved the mass influence that would make such a scenario more than an idle fantasy? In politics there are sins of commission and sins of omission. If Hugo Chavez is guilty of the sins of commission, including a failure to nationalize the commanding heights of industry and institute a planned economy, then what about the aspiring vanguard parties of Latin America that come out of the Trotskyist movement? What responsibility do they have for the “betrayals” from the “fake left”? About 10 years ago I visited a friend in Washington whose wife worked at the Smithsonian Library. We visited the place and browsed around the reference library, where my friend spotted what he described as one of his favorite books: Robert Alexander’s Trotskyism in Latin America.

If you thumb through its pages, you will find a Sargasso Sea of tiny groups that never achieved anything like the popularity of Hugo Chavez’s. They are frequently the products of splits, having names like Workers Militant Party (Revolutionary) to distinguish itself from the sell-outs of the Workers Militant Party. My friend had an entirely different take on all this than I did. He saw their failure as a product of Stalinist hegemony mixed with capitalist repression. I, on the other hand, saw their own sectarianism as the main cause even if the other factors were real enough in themselves.

There was an alternative to this. The Cuban revolution was led by a true vanguard. The July 26th Movement was led by young revolutionaries who came to Marxism on their own terms rather than being “trained” by the traditional far left parties. By abandoning the “programmatic” boilerplate that was associated with such groups and that revolved around a correct interpretation of the Russian revolution, the July 26th Movement removed artificial barriers that would have impeded its growth. Furthermore, the “program” of the movement was embodied in speeches like “History Will Absolve Me” that spoke to the deeply felt needs of the Cuban people in language drawn from the Cuban experience, including Jose Marti’s writings, rather than Russia 1917.

For obvious reasons Cuba no longer provides a pole of attraction in the same way it used to for revolutionary fighters. The aging of the revolution and the loss of support from the Soviet Union have made Castro’s affinity for the new Latin American left understandable. If it is no longer possible for a new July 26th Movement to triumph, then isn’t the next best thing to have a left reformist government in power? After all, Che Guevara risked his life fighting to defend Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala. Doesn’t Hugo Chavez compare favorably with Arbenz?

In some ways the Latin American left lags behind developments in the rest of the world, particularly the Arab Spring. This would explain Hugo Chavez’s unforgivable support for Qaddafi and now al-Assad. The premises of 21st century socialism seem geared in many ways to a pre-2008 period in which the long slow development of workers power in bourgeois society—analogous in many ways to the development of capitalist property relations within feudalism—was appropriate for the time. After all, the capitalist economy was expanding throughout the world, including important countries in Latin America like Brazil and oil-rich Venezuela.

We are in a different period now. I don’t think it is necessary to abandon the term 21st century socialism since it embodies important ideas, including the need for a democratic movement and popular power (in many respects, this is nothing but a return to classical Marxism.)

But the economic crisis forces us to look at a new set of circumstances, one in which movements for social change can lag behind the social relations that are being shaped by swift-moving currents. Everywhere in the world the left is being challenged by attacks on working people such as the kind that have not been seen since the 1930s. Despite the ability of Latin American left governments to remain somewhat isolated from these attacks (a function to some extent of their role in a rapidly expanding mineral and agricultural export market), they too will eventually face the same sorts of contradictions. Indeed, Callum McCormick states that “a defeat would for Chavez would be a setback for the left and perhaps ignite a ‘carnival of reaction’ across the continent.”

While I would not question the need for criticisms of Hugo Chavez or Evo Morales (I would have found it impossible not to point out the glaring contradictions between the ideals of 21st century socialism and Qaddafi’s police state), my suggestion to the far left comrades who were trained in the Trotskyist movement is to begin thinking about how they can become part of a process that does not serve the same kind of role in left politics that Roger Ebert plays in movies. There is always room for a good critic but given the urgency of our times we don’t so much need journalism on Chavez’s flaws but concrete proposals on how to move the left forward and more importantly actions that can serve as an inspiration and a model for our movement globally.

31 Comments »

  1. This is a welcome, thoughtful post. I visited Venezuela in 2005 for about three weeks, and that direct contact personalized my political perspective. The primary problem that I encountered was, of course, poverty. Chavez has sought to alleviate it as best he can, especially through the resources provided by PDVSA, the state oil company. Of course, that’s not a revolutionary program, but it has meant important, concrete improvements in peoples’ lives. For an effective left to emerge, it seems to me that this must be acknowledged as a starting point. Along these lines, absent in McCormick’s post is the serious question about how the achievements of the Chavez era can be preserved and expanded upon post-Chavez. I have always perceived Chavez as a kind of Gaullist (and it would be worth comparing the economic policies of de Gaulle and Chavez to see to what extent this comparison is valid), so there is the urgent question as to how his movement will prevent the right from taking power with US support. According, adopting a stance of implicit critical opposition doesn’t strike me as the way to proceed. Something more is required, something that places the left within the boundaries of the struggle as it is currently intensifying within Venezuela.

    Comment by Richard Estes — March 12, 2012 @ 5:58 pm

  2. Very defensive reply, ‘Hugo is not very good but what have you trots ever done eh?’

    Comment by James Doleman (@jamesdoleman) — March 12, 2012 @ 7:43 pm

  3. Well, that is the question, isn’t it? The Trotskyist movement has been around since the late 1920s and has never had more than a few thousand members anywhere. They used to blame their failures on the Stalinists but the collapse of the USSR has made that excuse sound hollow. I do think that there is a Coyoacan type mentality at work here. Trotsky was commenting on events all around the world from afar in what amounted to a kind of plush version of house arrest. It is depressing to hear Chris Harman adopt the same stance.

    Comment by louisproyect — March 12, 2012 @ 7:55 pm

  4. I appreciate you taking the time to write a reply, Louis. As you suggest, nothing I said should necessarily be taken as indicative of the SWP “line” on Latin America. I have my own positions on it. I expect you’re correct that it’s dangerous to adopt the position of an aloof ‘critic’ of socialist processes developing abroad. I certainly didn’t try to adopt that position in the article. Neither did I want to criticize the Latin America left by holding it up to some standard I’ve derived from revolutionary Russia. Rather, and perhaps I didn’t stress this enough in the article, I wanted to stress the struggles within the Venezuelan regime over where to go next. The events I highlighted in Bolivia are not the product of ‘Trotskyist agitation’ (although the regime has suggested this about other battles). In that sense, I wanted to bring out the contradictions inherent in the process, contradictions that those directly taking part in it are aware of and attempting to overcome. I certainly didn’t suggest Chavez is necessarily an obstacle, merely that his government is best when it is pushed from below. I don’t think one needs to relive the B/M split to think that the self-activity of the working classes and the poor determine the fortunes of revolutionary processes. I see no reason why that should not be the case in Venezuela or Bolivia or indeed across the continent.

    Comment by Callum — March 12, 2012 @ 8:03 pm

  5. When you read things like “the social relations that are being shaped by swift-moving currents” or discussions of “youth,” don’t your eyes glaze over?

    Glass bead game, with the usual openings and gambits.

    Comment by Grumpy Old Man — March 12, 2012 @ 8:09 pm

  6. Grumpy, I have no idea why you read this blog when you are either a neocon or a New Republic liberal at best. I stopped reading Marc Cooper’s blog 5 years ago. When you get to be an “old man”, you’d think that you’d be able to pick and choose your reading material more carefully.

    Comment by louisproyect — March 12, 2012 @ 8:11 pm

  7. the self-activity of the working classes and the poor determine the fortunes of revolutionary processes.

    —-

    Well, who would argue with this other than the Socialist Unity gang intervening at Lenin’s Tomb?

    The real problem is that this not much more than a mantra, I’m afraid. A leftist version of “Om mani padme hum”.

    Comment by louisproyect — March 12, 2012 @ 8:14 pm

  8. Thanks for the reply Louise. “Trots” might be a bit of a marginal group in most places. However the idea, and actuality,of Revolution is more concrete now than it has been since the 1960’s

    Is Latin America to be immune from this movement? Should the left just accept the ability of Chavez not to be overthrown and not ask further questions?

    I say not.

    Comment by James Doleman (@jamesdoleman) — March 12, 2012 @ 8:16 pm

  9. “The premises of 21st century socialism seem geared in many ways to a pre-2008 period in which the long slow development of workers power in bourgeois society—analogous in many ways to the development of capitalist property relations within feudalism—was appropriate for the time.”

    I don’t disagree that there was such an (implicit) assumption on the part of some left-nationalist regimes there, but as Andre Gunder Frank argued oh so many years ago, these states do not have a bourgeoisie, but a “lumpenbourgeois” that is only capable of producing “lumpendevelopment”. The problem that Chavez et al face is that they have inherited state apparatuses and economic structures that were constructed for one purpose alone: facilitating capital accumulation in the core (i.e. the U.S.). They certainly were not meant to be used for socialist revolution. For that reason, there is some merit to radical critiques averring that these structures must be demolished in order to really get things done. That said, however, I agree with you and others that Chavez, Morales, etc. are certainly preferable to their predecessors and past alternatives…

    Comment by dermokrat — March 12, 2012 @ 9:05 pm

  10. Actually, I’d say I was a hybrid of reactionary, paleocon, and libertarian, and unlike you, repentant of a phase of earlier leftism For that reason, I don’t usually comment on your internecine left quarrels. I read the blog for nostalgic reasons and because I like your reminiscences of the Carskills and your film reviews.

    In this case, a tired metaphor raised my eyebrows. I trust an eyebrow lift won’t rain on your parade.

    Cheers.

    Comment by Grumpy Old Man — March 12, 2012 @ 9:29 pm

  11. “The real problem is that this not much more than a mantra, I’m afraid.”

    It is also happens to be true, Louis. But, you’re right, if it wasn’t being related to any concrete processes, then it would just be a slogan. But you know forms of emancipatory self-activity go on in all the countries of the ‘new left’ – indeed, the governments came into power on the back of these processes. So I don’t consider this to be an abstract ‘demand’, but a description of what is actually happening on the ground.

    Comment by Callum — March 12, 2012 @ 9:39 pm

  12. But you know forms of emancipatory self-activity go on in all the countries of the ‘new left’

    Of course they go on. I do follow the British SWP press, after all.

    But that is not the issue. It is *how* to create a party that has credibility with the masses. In the Chris Harman article I cited, he refers to 3 different tendencies to Chavez’s left. Meanwhile, the masses will continue to support Chavez until the far left rises to the occasion. That is the central challenge of our epoch, not whether or not Hugo Chavez will be the next Lenin.

    Comment by louisproyect — March 12, 2012 @ 9:45 pm

  13. Catskills, of course.

    Comment by Grumpy Old Man. — March 13, 2012 @ 1:14 am

  14. Louis talks of a failure of Trotskyite parties not building up to more than a few thousand members anywhere. Well, the same can be said about the Stalinists, Maoists, Hoxhaites, Left Communists, etc.

    They’ve all been around many decades. None have built up massive parties ala the German SDP. Anywhere. Not once. In any country.

    The “mass groups” that do exist are either washed up zombie corpses of the 3rd International that simply didn’t die with the rest (like the Greek and Japanese parties) — reformist through and through.

    All the other groups came out of splits and then grew smaller and smaller — with many disappearing completely. Look at the US SWP, the RCP, etc. What’s the most “successful” example? The ISO? A 1,000 member revolving roster.

    There hasn’t been a “mass communist party” constructed anywhere on earth in nearly a century. And the ones built before that either imploded or sold the working class down the river.

    But Louis doesn’t see all of this as symptoms of underlying conditions. For him, it’s all strategic and organizational error. If the cadres of these parties would have just “done it right,” things could have been different. That’s the kind of thing that looks like it could be right on the surface, unless of course you have a grasp of materialism and how things really go on.

    Communist organizations don’t build proletarian struggle. Proletarian struggle builds communist organizations. With the working class in retreat for so long it’s obvious that organizations could only stagnate and crumble, regardless of the “correctness” of their “line.”

    Paul Mattick did a interview in the 70’s that’s relevant to times like these: http://www.redemmas.org/collective_action_notes/pm403.htm

    Comment by Dolt Dumstrum — March 13, 2012 @ 9:39 am

  15. Chavez is of course the darling of the Stalinists. The king is dead long live the king sor of thing. This is what they mean by 21st Century Socialism. Anti-revolutionary power balancing that, like in the Cold War, guaranteed the left bureaucrats their cosy little place in the capitalist world. Chavez support the Castrator Assad, they support him, Chavez supports Puting, they support Putin. It is pathetic and it certainly isn’t international socialism.

    The trouble with your article Louis is you write as if nothing ever changes. As if Stalinism didn’t sweep half the world and create the conditions for a thirty-year Golden Age for US imperialism followed by a thirty-year credit bubble of unprecedented proportions. All this meant that social mobility, the American Dream, captivated the consciousness of workers not just in the US but around the world as capitalism looked like it might actually full fill its claims. The Cold War was a system more or less set in stone and the politics were glacial. Despite this the revolutionaries acted as if the revolution was coming tomorrow. There was no perspective, no analysis just self-serving propaganda. The world was stitched up by the US thanks to Stalinism. The collapse of the Soviet Union was, however, the worst thing that could have happened to the US but it was in the end an outcome it was forced to seek. The thirty year Reaganite credit bubble gave it a stay of execution but since 2008 the world has changed forever and with the Stalinists reduced to a rump and utterly despised for their role in providing Western corporations with an army of cheap labour in China and their opposition to the Arab Spring and support for the butchers there is no longer any excuse for the Trots. Absent sectarianism and opportunism and with a programme that addresses the immediate and transitional demands of the working class the Fourth International can finally be built.

    Comment by David Ellis — March 13, 2012 @ 9:42 am

  16. This is an immensely thoughtful and thought-provoking article. Chavez seems to be treading on a sharp edge. It seems that he will either be cut in two or fall off one side or the other eventually.

    Certainly his “old new left” support for allegedly anti-imperialist dictators (Ghaddafi, Assad) gives pause to anyone sensitive to contemporary world conditions, although C. himself does not seem to be following their example in Venezuela.

    But how important is it for the socialist left in the United States to approve of Chavez (or Morales)? Surely the important thing for the U.S. left at present, is to understand their experience so as to inform an effective socialist response to conditions in this country. A literal U.S. equivalent of Chavez or Morales is simply beyond imagining at the moment, so profoundly is their world and ours shaped by the still-unshaken dominance of American corporate and military interests in this hemisphere.

    It remains to us to shake that–and to do so in the full knowledge that the terrifying arsenal of U.S. military power, and the scarcely less terrifying power of the “private” armed partisans of imperialism here, is aimed squarely at anyone, anywhere who both criticizes U.S. power and appears likely to be listened to by any number of people. Moreover, this must be done by leveraging the discontents of U.S. working people, many of whom have only recently begun to experience in full the kind of marginalization that used to be the lot of working people everywhere. This cannot be accomplished by preaching about the ins and outs of 1917 and arguing about Lenin the way Baptists and Presbyterians argue about freedom of the will. Only antiquarians and those with a leaning to costume drama will be listening, and they are very few.

    It becomes more and more difficult to envision a way out that does not include a mass movement united under some banner of what, taken severally, are only reformist demands–and able to offer aid to the stunned, the incredulous, and the hopeless facing the shock of immiseration. Perhaps there might be several such movements, united around core points but differing in specific ways.

    My own list of demands–carrying this one step further–would include an end to arbitrary assassinations and imprisonment without due process, an end to the Taft-Hartley Act and right-to work laws (clearing the way for labor to organize effectively for the first time in more than sixty years), an end to all wars and the dismantling of the military-industrial complex–its resources diverted to building infrastructure–a restoration of Glass-Steagall and other restrictions and limitations on economic financialization, the imposition of Eisenhower-era-level 90% income tax rates on the highest incomes, free and universal health care, guaranteed decent housing, guaranteed employment at a living wage, incentives and subsidies for small and medium-sized business rather than transnational corporations, a network of state banks and a nationalized Federal Reserve, and abolition of all tax incentives and subsidies to businesses engaged in the offshoring of employment and related practices.

    The organization or organizations promoting such demands would not have to be political parties as such. They would maintain a consistent and reliable presence replacing or augmenting the Occupy encampments on a semi-permanent basis, and would not in and of themselves be revolutionary organizations, at least initially. Probably they would continue the current fetish for non-violence when demonstrating or resisting raids and the like, though they would have to be able to engage in some degree of “violent” self defense when necessary.

    Okay, shoot me now. I probably deserve it–and may well REPENT having said these things, reserving the right to change my mind later. But there it is.

    Comment by Joe Vaughan — March 13, 2012 @ 5:16 pm

  17. Dolt: “Well, the same can be said about the Stalinists, Maoists, Hoxhaites, Left Communists, etc.

    They’ve all been around many decades. None have built up massive parties ala the German SDP. Anywhere. Not once. In any country.”

    Really? The Indonesian Communist Party had 1 million members(!) before the Suharto coup. The Iraqi Communist Party (CP) had a mass following in the wake of the 1959 revolution before Saddam Hussein wiped them out; the Greek, Italian, and French CPs all had tremendous support right after WWII; the Chinese and Vietnamese CPs led mass movements that took power.

    Many Stalinist forces figured out how to become mass parties and influential in whatever context they were operating in. Their betrayals and mistakes had world-historic consequences. The Trotskyists never made it that far, despite their/our claim to always know better. What do we have to show for in the realm of concrete achievements for our 100% correct line or strategic outlook?

    Focusing on “getting the balance” right between “criticism” and “support” is missing the point entirely, which is: what is to be done? Instead of worrying about the terrible crimes, betrayals, and shortcomings of the Syrian National Council, the Libyan NTC/TNC, or Huge Chavez we should ask ourselves: what are we doing to aid the uprisings? Are we organizing to send food, medical supplies, video cameras, and other desperately needed items as liberal outfits like Avaaz has to Syria, to say nothing of volunteers (as the socialist left did in 1936 to fight fascists in Spain)?

    Our arguments on all of these issues might carry a bit more weight if Syrian/Libyan revolutionaries saw us as comrades, as equals, as brothers and sisters and not as know-it-alls who have done nothing meaningful or practical to help them defeat their (our) enemies. The same people who seemingly understand the Venezuelan revolution better than Venezuela’s revolutionaries have turned out to be stunningly bankrupt when the closest thing to a revolution (Occupy) erupted under their feet.

    Funny how that works out.

    Since we live in a revolutionary era, we ought to remember what Marx said way back in 1843: “The weapon of criticism cannot, of course, replace criticism of the weapon.”

    Comment by Binh — March 13, 2012 @ 6:29 pm

  18. I just read Callum McCormick’s primary post at Lenin’s Tomb and from a socialist perspective I don’t see the controversy. Whether you agree with all the points of his critique or not I certainly didn’t read McCormick launching into some kind of attack on Chavez or pretending to give “Trotskyist” advice to the masses that support him. Providing an analysis, in a supportive context, of where he thinks the “project” for Venezuelan socialism is right now with a mix of victories as well as failures seems to only be provocative to those who feel they’re better suited to do it themselves because they have a somehow a more authentic connection to the current struggles taking place.

    Comment by Rick — March 13, 2012 @ 8:19 pm

  19. I don’t think that Callum’s article is anywhere near as pernicious as, for example, the sort of thing that James Petras has written. But the real problem is that it is besides the point. As I tried to point out, the way forward is not in such critiques but in concrete proposals that can unite revolutionaries and move the struggle forward.

    Comment by louisproyect — March 13, 2012 @ 8:34 pm

  20. “Really? The Indonesian Communist Party had 1 million members(!) before the Suharto coup. The Iraqi Communist Party (CP) had a mass following in the wake of the 1959 revolution before Saddam Hussein wiped them out; the Greek, Italian, and French CPs all had tremendous support right after WWII; the Chinese and Vietnamese CPs led mass movements that took power.”

    Really.

    WW2 Ended more than 6 decades ago. Hence “many decades” and “nearly a century.” Additionally, none of these groups rivaled the German SDP, built from scratch among the working class, in any way.

    The PKI came out of the 3rd International. It wasn’t built up afterward.

    The ICP was founded in the 1920’s, along with many other parties. This was the tail end of a wave of proletarian struggle.

    The Greek, Italian, and French CPs existed in the 3rd International and their origins lie in even earlier periods.

    The Chinese CP too, and it was basically wiped out and then hijacked by the peasant movement of Mao and Co. before taking power.

    The Vietnamese party – which also came out of the 3rd International – is simply a joke. It was an out and out nationalist movement that publicly denounced class struggle and slaughtered worker-communists from the get go. It’s later “success,” which meant only physically driving imperialist soldiers from the country’s boarders in order to better prepare the Vietnamese working class for exploitation by their capitalist masters a decade later, was build on the corpses of hundreds of thousands of toilers.

    Maybe you missed this part: ‘The “mass groups” that do exist are either washed up zombie corpses of the 3rd International that simply didn’t die with the rest (like the Greek and Japanese parties) — reformist through and through. ‘

    So really, you’ve proven my point. The mass parties came out of the last round of proletarian upsurge and either dissolved or transformed in the period of retreat that followed.

    “when the closest thing to a revolution (Occupy) erupted under their feet. ”

    Occupy isn’t a proletarian uprising or anything approaching that. It’s a broad populist movement (“the 99%” is a populist, not class slogan, & because it is based on income it includes business owners, cops, union bureaucrats financial parasites, lawyers, doctors, officers of the FBI, CIA, and even many elected officials) filled more by displaced petty-bourgeois professionals and specialists than anything else. “Hey I went to college to join the ranks of the middle class! I did my part of the deal! Where’s my place?? You want me to get a low-paying job among the working class filth? No way! Another world is possible!” It has as much (if not more) potential to be a basis for a quasi-fascist reaction than it does to lead to anything approaching a socialist revolution. (I realize that because of this, it fits inveterate opportunist petty-bourgeois dilettantes like you and Louis perfectly, so I don’t expect you to accept this fact).

    Students of history will remember that the real fascists (Germany, Italy, etc.) and their predecessors promoted broad anti-bank and anti-corporation rhetoric hard on their path to power. Occupy has no analysis of the natural workings of capitalism as the direct cause of the depression, instead seeing it as the work of “greedy bankers” and “big corporations.” See any similarities? Also why Ron Paul types have been able to move unabated in the ranks of Occupy.

    The fact that the left has a boner over Occupy just shows its utter opportunism and adventurist excitement (instead of any kind of real class analysis) over any kind of movement at all, coming out of 4+ decades of nothingness. Meanwhile, they missed (or did their best to derail) the real, important working class explosions like the 1st and 2nd Republic Windows occupations and the Wisconsin uprising.

    Comment by Dolt Dumstrum — March 14, 2012 @ 1:18 am

  21. Dolt, why have you stopped posting as “The Idiot”? And what is the deal with using terms like idiot, dolt, dum, etc.? Have you considered gestalt therapy? I can recommend a good doctor in the West Village named Hyman Berkowitz. He did marvels for my cousin Marvin who used to eat his own boogers in polite company.

    Comment by louisproyect — March 14, 2012 @ 1:29 am

  22. How many times are you going to ask that question?

    All that should matter is the content (which you never address, preferring instead to launch empty ad hominem attacks). In any event, I’m no one special. And any idiot can see what’s wrong here.

    Alas, such ideas must be incomprehensible to a vainglorious petty-bourgeois cretin like you.

    Comment by Dolt Dumstrum — March 14, 2012 @ 1:42 am

  23. which you never address, preferring instead to launch empty ad hominem attacks

    What else would you expect me to do with a bad imitation of the Spartacist League like you?

    Comment by louisproyect — March 14, 2012 @ 1:45 am

  24. Respond? I guess you’d have to know what you’re talking about to do that though. The Spart-sect has nothing but contempt for people like Paul Mattick, gave “unconditional support” to the Vietnamese CP, and is still trying to build a Trot vanguard to this day. Nothing to do with me whatsoever. Don’t let any of that get in the way of your self-centered rantings though.

    Comment by Dolt Dumstrum — March 14, 2012 @ 2:08 am

  25. contempt for people like Paul Mattick

    Nice name-dropping.

    Comment by louisproyect — March 14, 2012 @ 2:10 am

  26. What the hell are you talking about? Are you senile? I’m starting to genuinely wonder.

    I linked approvingly to an interview with Mattick in a comment on this post. You then tried to claim my politics / arguments mirror the Sparts. I pointed out the numerous errors in such a claim.

    Now, let’s try this one more time: address the arguments, not the person making them. Grade school stuff guy.

    Comment by Dolt Dumstrum — March 14, 2012 @ 2:18 am

  27. “The PKI came out of the 3rd International. It wasn’t built up afterward.”

    Stalin dissolved the Communist International decades before the Communist Party of Indonesia reached 1 million members. Come on now…

    Comment by Binh — March 15, 2012 @ 8:47 pm

  28. re Ending declarative sentences with interrogative inflection (Postmodernist culture):

    Comment by Bob Montgomery — March 20, 2012 @ 4:39 pm

  29. Hi Lou,

    i think you might be interested in this article which takes up the same issue you have in your post. It is in spanish so i am only posting the link http://www.paginasiete.bo/2012-03-20/Opinion/Destacados/17Opi00120-03-12-P720120320MAR.aspx

    While the conclusion may be too provocative for some r-r-r-revolutionary marxists who believe that the role of the left is to denounce and oppose reforms, i think if you go beyond the form and look at the content, the position is not to dissimilar to the one pointed to by Nathan Rao, a Toronto-based socialist writer here http://johnriddell.wordpress.com/2012/01/11/we-need-to-provide-a-credible-political-perspective/

    “…..While there is certainly a “crisis of politics”, the central role of government remains. As the old saying goes, politics abhors a vacuum. If the radical Left is unable to provide at least the beginnings of a credible outline of what our solution to the central problem of what a genuinely anti-capitalist government (or “workers government” to use the term in this exchange) might look like – and of the organizational project and strategy for getting there – you can be sure that politicized working people, students and so forth will continue to support (however grudgingly) the existing organizations of the neoliberalized “Left” or “centre-Left” as a “lesser evil” against an increasingly aggressive capitalist class and Right…..”

    There in lies the problem with much of the ultra-critics of Chavez and Morales. The problem is not the criticism, but the lack of any alternative beyond vague calls for socialism (in one country?). But this is as true for Venezuela and Bolivia as it is for the left in imperialist countries.

    Fred

    Comment by Federico Fuentes — March 21, 2012 @ 12:29 am


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