Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

April 3, 2019

Down with neo-Kautskyism

Filed under: DSA,Jacobin,Kautsky — louisproyect @ 5:43 pm

Karl Kautsky

Five years ago Jacobin was a big happy family with the ISO and Solidarity members basking in the spotlight alongside the DSA intellectuals. Despite the obvious cleavage between the Trotskyist origins of the former group and the Michael Harrington orientation of Bhaskar Sunkara, everybody could benefit from the exposure afforded by the magazine’s vast readership.

Eventually, the differences became too pronounced to ignore. Probably the first manifestation of this was Charles Post’s gentle reprimand of Vivek Chibber in the February 2018 issue that took issue with an earlier article by Chibber targeting the “ruptural” strategy associated with the early Communist International and the revolutionary left. Despite Chibber’s reputation as a high priest of orthodox Marxism (bolstered by Post and Jacobin, it should be added), there was no denying that he had much more in common with Michael Harrington than Leon Trotsky.

Establishing the orthodoxy of the Jacobin left took much more than citing Michael Harrington. To maintain its left cover, it had to search for a Marxist authority who could be invoked when dealing with a bunch of old fogies like Charles Post or Robert Brenner who could not see the wisdom in ringing doorbells for a Democratic Party candidate. Of course, one cannot be sure that Brenner was purged from the Catalyst editorial board by Sunkara and Chibber for political reasons but I’d bet a bottle of Glenlivet scotch that it was a factor.

Eric Blanc was Johnny-on-the-spot. This young Marxist scholar had an impressive track record of articles that were notable for their erudition even when some of their conclusions were questionable. Perhaps the most questionable of them were those that endorsed Lars Lih’s pro-“Old Bolshevik” analysis that there was a continuum between Karl Kautsky and Lenin. It was only a matter of time that Blanc’s political trajectory could be discerned. His interest in Kautsky was not just historical. He saw in Kautsky the missing link that could establish the revolutionary continuity between Karl Kautsky and the DSA’s inside-outside electoral strategy.

In January 2019, John Muldoon published an article in Jacobin titled Reclaiming the Best of Karl Kautsky that described him as the original “democratic socialist”. In my rebuttal to Muldoon, I wrote:

Kautsky’s basic message is don’t rock the boat with all that socialist revolution stuff. No wonder it would appeal to people smitten with Bernie Sanders, who is all for his home state serving as a base for F-35s, a $1.5 trillion boondoggle, or Jeremy Corbyn, whose chief economic adviser John McDonnell warns against nationalizing industry, something that would hearken back to 1945—god forbid.

Post had his own response to Mullin last month in an article titled The “Best” of Karl Kautsky Isn’t Good Enough that was critical but not so nearly as mine. Unlike Post, I don’t care about burning bridges and rather enjoy blowing up the smoldering remains with dynamite while I am at it. He wrote:

On the other hand, there are the electoral breakthroughs by self-proclaimed socialists and radicals such as Jeremy Corbyn in Britain and Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Rashida Tlaib in the United States. The rising electoral profile of open critics of neoliberalism give the renewed struggles outside the electoral arena a political voice — a voice which could stimulate new and broader struggles.

If you take this seriously, then why not ring doorbells for the Democrats? After all, it might lead to workers councils and general strikes someday.

As gentle as Post’s critique was, Eric Blanc felt the need to defend Kautsky against him. (He even criticized Mullin for not giving Kautsky his due.) In an article titled Why Kautsky Was Right (and Why You Should Care), Blanc comes out full-tilt-boogie for Kautsky, a man that Karl Marx described as “a member of the philistine tribe”.

In the first paragraph, Blanc describes Kautsky as “the world’s preeminent Marxist theorist from the late 1880s through 1914.” I’d make the case for Rosa Luxemburg and Leon Trotsky having those qualifications but do consider the possibility that Blanc uses the word “preeminent” in the same way that it applies to Bernie Sanders or Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as socialists. After all, with all their appearances on cable TV, the term “preeminent” describes them much more than obscure figures like David Harvey or John Bellamy Foster.

According to Blanc, the fan boy James Muldoon and the critic Post were both wrong in characterizing him as opposed to a “ruptural” break with capitalism. They didn’t realize that Kautsky was a big-time rupture guy. (I’ll never get used to that word being used in this context. When I was young, the word always meant hernia, like when a kid told me in 7th grade that our social studies teacher wore a special belt for his rupture.)

Blanc’s basic position is that “The difference between Kautsky’s approach and that of Leninists like Post is not over whether a revolution was necessary, but how to get there.” To close the deal ideologically, Blanc uses the word insurrection as a way to make revolutionaries sound hopelessly blind to modern-day realities:

Following Lenin’s arguments in his 1917 pamphlet The State and Revolution, Leninists for decades have hinged their strategy on the need for an insurrection to overthrow the entire parliamentary state and to place all power into the hands of workers’ councils. In contrast, Kautsky argued that the path to anticapitalist rupture in conditions of political democracy passed through the election of a workers’ party to government.

That the term “insurrection” does not appear once in The State and Revolution does not appear to perturb Blanc. I mean, after all, if it takes putting words in peoples’ mouth to win an argument… Blanc does admit that Kautsky did move toward the center after 1910 but up until that point, “Kautsky was the leading light of the far left in Germany, Russia, and across the world.” Not only that, he was not to blame for the SPD’s reactionary politics after 1910, with its support for WWI and its murder of Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht. That was the responsibility of an “unexpected rise of a caste of party and union bureaucrats who were dismissive of Marxist principles in general and Kautsky’s ‘intransigent’ class strategy in particular.”

Judging Kautsky’s pre-1910 writings as beyond reproach strikes me as the predictable outcome of Blanc connecting the dots between Kautsky and Lenin. Instead of seeing Trotsky’s writings on combined and uneven development as key, Lih and Blanc are much more inclined to see Lenin’s Bolshevism as resting on a stodgy and understandably neglected work like The Social Revolution, written in 1902. It contains pearls of wisdom like “For example, in all modern civilization the direction of capitalist development during the last century has been the same, but in every one of them the form and the velocity was very different. Geographical peculiarities, racial individualities, favor and disfavor of the neighbor, the restraint or assistance of great individualities, all these and many ether things have had their influence.” Yes, we can’t forget about those racial individualities, can we? Who would want to bother with Trotsky’s discussion of the 1905 revolution when there are such profundities awaiting us.

Toward the middle of the article, Blanc stops beating around the bush and gets to the real purpose of his article, which is to say it is okay to use the Democratic Party ballot line as he did in his dodgy “dirty break” article. It is high time we got over these Bolshevik “insurrectionary” illusions. Blanc writes:

Even at his most radical, Kautsky rejected the relevance of an insurrectionary strategy within capitalist democracies. His case was simple: the majority of workers in parliamentary countries would generally seek to use legal mass movements and the existing democratic channels to advance their interests. Technological advances, in any case, had made modern armies too strong to be overthrown through uprisings on the old nineteenth-century model of barricade street fighting. For these reasons, democratically elected governments had too much legitimacy among working people and too much armed strength for an insurrectionary approach to be realistic.

If this is not the stupidest thing I have read from a preeminent Marxist, I can’t imagine anything surpassing it. I am afraid that Blanc has Marx confused with Blanqui because what he describes above is Blanquism pure and simple. Louis Auguste Blanqui was a 19th century socialist who was a fearless opponent of both the bourgeoisie and the landed gentry but, unlike Marx, did not believe in mass action. He was an advocate of small, armed groups acting on behalf of the working class, a strategy that became known as Blanquism.

Insurrection is a loaded term, especially when applied to October, 1917. Keep in mind that there was zero barricade fighting in the weeks prior to the assault on the Winter Palace. Of course, the Mensheviks described the seizure of power as a coup since they considered the Constituent Assembly as the proper vehicle of working class struggle rather than the Soviets. Clearly, the logic of Blanc’s neo-Kautskyism would be to look back at the orientation to the Soviets rather than the Constituent Assembly as an act that legitimized the “old nineteenth century model of barricade street fighting”.

What existed in Russia in 1917 was rival governing powers. The Constituent Assembly insisted on prolonging the war and ignoring the pleas of the masses for “Peace, Bread and Land”. The Soviets, on the other hand, had become made up in their majority by Bolsheviks and as such were determined to carry out a revolution in order to satisfy their yearnings. If the Bolsheviks had not seized power, the counter-revolution would have prevailed just as it did in Chile under Allende. No matter how committed the Mensheviks and the Chilean left were to capitalist reform, the bourgeoisie was working overtime to make such reform impossible. At a certain point, the working class becomes exhausted and the reactionaries take the offensive.

That about says it all for theorizing revolutionary change but in reality these issues have a rather abstract character. The USA is far from having to decide whether Kautsky’s strategy is the key to unlocking the socialist door.

The real issue today is class independence. In a very real sense, the debate in the movement is not that different than the one that confronted the Russian left: how to regard the country’s capitalist reform party known as the Constitutional Democrats or Cadets. The debate between Jacobin/DSA and people like Charles Post is over how to relate to the Democratic Party, our version of the Cadets. Street-fighting and barricades have nothing to do with our present-day realities but voting for Democrats is.

In one of the most egregious misuses of revolutionary history in Blanc’s article, we are told that Kautsky’s parliamentarian approach was embraced by the sharpest minds in the Communist movement:

History has confirmed Kautsky’s predictions. Not only has there never been a victorious insurrectionary socialist movement under a capitalist democracy, but only a tiny minority of workers have ever even nominally supported the idea of an insurrection. For this reason, the most perceptive elements of the early Communist International began briefly moving back towards Kautsky’s approach in 1922–23 by advocating the parliamentary election of “workers’ governments” as a first step towards rupture.

To start with, the term “workers’ government” had nothing to do with DSA’s electoralism, the goal of which—rather unrealistically—is to see someone like Bernie Sanders turning into the second coming of Olaf Palme. In fact, Sweden won’t see the second coming of Olaf Palme, either. Capitalism has left the Fordist building. It is in the middle of a long depression, as Michael Roberts puts it, and hopes of a generous welfare state are as utopian as anything Robert Owen ever wrote.

When the Communists wrote about a workers government, they had something in mind like Germany in the early 20s when the Communists and many social democrats were revolutionary-minded. Unfortunately, the Communists were sectarian ultraleftists who would have considered such a bloc unprincipled.

But what might have been possible in Germany was not what Eric Blanc has in mind. Indeed, it had an insurrectionary character for much of the time. Germany had definitely entered a pre-Revolutionary situation in 1923. French occupation of the Ruhr, unemployment, declining wages, hyperinflation and fascist provocations all added up to an explosive situation.

The crisis was deepest in the heavily industrialized state of Saxony where a left-wing Socialist named Erich Zeigner headed the government. He was friendly with the Communists and made common cause with them. He called for expropriation of the capitalist class, arming of the workers and a proletarian dictatorship. This man, like thousands of others in the German workers movement, had a revolutionary socialist outlook but was condemned as a “Menshevik” in the Communist press. The united front overtures to Zeigner mostly consisted of escalating pressure to force him to accommodate to the maximum Communist program.

What if instead the Communists broached the possibility of a common electoral front with Zeigner, whose working-class comrades in Saxony had been carrying out pitched street-fighting battles with the cops and with the emerging fascist movement? This would have been a real “workers government”, not the impotent and useless coalition governments of post-WWII Europe that have been socialist in name only.

Under the conditions of capitalist austerity that will prevail for the foreseeable future in the USA and elsewhere, there will be rising discontent that can conceivably open workers up to the socialist alternative. The last thing we need are Marxists advocating on behalf of the Democratic Party, the oldest continuously functioning capitalist party in the world. The lines have been drawn and the left has to make up its mind. The future is at stake.

19 Comments »

  1. It is of greatest importance, in terms of any sort of left-wing movement growing in the US, to counter the weak tea of much of the DSA and all of Jacobin magazine. And it would be wise of those of us on the radical left to grasp that the DSA/Jacobin “left” aims to destroy the radical left, by hook or by crook. They are an opportunistic and vicious bunch for the most part. It is a pity that in NYC, once a hotbed of radical thought and action, with a vibrant labor movement, that the worst kind of hustlers and snake-oil purveyors have taken the lead, leading the working class down a path doomed to defeat. The one good thing is that they know so little about working people that they are unlikely to succeed.

    Comment by Michael D Yates — April 3, 2019 @ 10:32 pm

  2. The Momentum faction of DSA AFAIK purports to value mass organization and to be engaged in it via the framework of, among other things, the existing unions, to which their relationship appears to be similar to that of the DSA as a whole to the Democratic Party.

    Despite this gestural “left” opposition, the Sanders/DSA approach appears doomed to certain failure–a repeat of 2016, only with Biden or the ridiculous Master Beto O’Rourke–whose chief assets are talking nice and looking a little like Robert Kennedy–and both of whom AFAIK have far less popular appeal than Hillary Clinton. I believe the likeliest election scenario is a Trump landslide with majorities in both houses of congress.

    Mass organization in the interim is necessary IMHO not only to put forward labor actions and advance the environmental cause, etc., but simply to provide for public safety in the debacle that appears unavoidable. Running candidates for office seeems to me almost an afterthought.
    It may be that people will jink right if they cannot feel personally connected to a movement that is of them, for them, and has their backs–and is not merely some televised illusion.

    Is this going to come from Philly Socialists or Marxist Central?

    I fear that what is coming is a deluge against which the left will have no sandbags ready. Running socialists for office without a mass organization in place seems suicidal.

    I do gather from a skim of LeBlanc’s (as always) intelligent piece, that, per him, the Younger Kautsky (the one Lenin admired?) as it were understood this but that the DSA, Momentum or no, clearly does not.

    I’m no revolutionary, just a sad old putz estranged from his family who has a big mouth–call me a “concerned citizen.”

    But hey–maybe the full Mueller Report contains a magic bullet that will save the world from everything!

    Comment by Farans Kalosar — April 4, 2019 @ 1:34 pm

  3. Against comrades Blanc and Louis, I must point out that Kautsky gave serious consideration to armed insurrection, as Lenin noted (The Russian Revolution and the Tasks of the Proletariat, 1906):

    “Both the June fighting in Paris,” says Kautsky, “and the December fighting in Moscow were barricade fighting. But the former was a disaster; it marked the end of the old barricade tactics. The latter marked the beginning of new barricade tactics. And consequently we must revise the opinion which Engels expressed in his “Introduction” to Marx’s Class Struggles, that the period of barricade fighting is over for good. Actually, only the period of the old barricade tactics is over. This is what the Moscow fighting showed, when a handful of insurgents managed to hold out for two weeks against superior forces armed with all the resources of modern artillery.”

    That is how Kautsky speaks. He does not sing a requiem for the insurrection because the first attempt failed. He does not grumble over the failure, but studies the birth and growth of a new and higher form of struggle, examines the significance of the disorder and discontent among the troops, the assistance the workers received from the townspeople, the combination of the mass strike with insurrection. He studies the way in which the proletariat is learning the art of insurrection. He revises obsolete military theories, and there by calls upon the whole Party to analyse and assimilate the experience of Moscow. He regards the whole movement as a transition from strike to insurrection, and tries to grasp how the workers should combine the two for the purpose of achieving success.

    Kautsky concludes his article as follows: “Such are the lessons of Moscow. How far they will influence the forms of the struggle in future, it is impossible, as yet, to foresee from here [i.e., from Germany]. Indeed, in all preceding manifestations of the Russian revolution so far we have seen spontaneous outbreaks of the unorganised masses; none of these were planned or prepared beforehand. Probably this will continue to be the case for some time.

    “But while it is impossible, as yet, definitely to predict the forms that the struggle will assume in the future, all the signs are that we must expect further battles, that the present ominous [unheimliche] stillness is merely the calm be fore the storm. The October movement made the masses in town and country conscious of their power. Then the reaction in January hurled them into an abyss of torment. Here everything in flames them, arouses their anger, and they are ready to pay any price, however high, to escape. Soon the masses will rise again and attack with mightier force than ever! Let the counter-revolution celebrate its triumph over the bodies of the heroes who fell in freedom’s cause. The end of this triumph is approaching: the red dawn is rising, the proletarian revolution is at hand.”

    Even after 1914 Kautsky granted the possibility of a successful armed insurrection, but on condition that it was accompanied by a powerful general strike.

    By the way, the Boer Commandos showed the possibility of success of armed insurrection, as the Marxist revolutionary Mikhail Pavlovich wrote in a 1901 brochure. In the 1905 revolution he carried out the lessons in practice, as mentioned in his autobiographical essay, from which I e-translate this passage:

    ‘At this time in the field of foreign policy, the biggest event was the Boer War. I followed this war very closely and argued that it would be the beginning of new developments in foreign foreign policy that would have a tremendous impact on the internal situation in all states. Since in Chisinau many people from the surrounding environment were interested in this war, it was decided to arrange my report to raise money for our purposes. The report had to be repeated three times. Of course, it was secret to arrange it. It should be noted that many comrades at that time were very little interested in foreign policy, believing that everything that lies outside the sphere of direct class struggle and the struggle against tsarism is of no special significance. However, at the end of the first report, one of my comrades approached me and, shaking my hand encouragingly, said: “It’s nothing, and it will come in handy.” All these questions also do not interfere with studying. ” I published my report in 1901: “What the Anglo-Boer War proved, the regular army and the militia in the modern situation” (Odessa). Of course, under the conditions of censorship, it was necessary to omit a lot. The main idea of the brochure was to prove the positional character of the future war and to emphasize the superiority of the militia over the regular army. From Chisinau, I went to Paris, which at that time was one of the most important centers of our revolutionary emigration. Russian Paris represented a bubbling cauldron in those years. All Russian students and students considered themselves socialists, attended all meetings, took part in demonstrations and demonstrations of French workers. Russian revolutionary organizations conducted active work here: they collected money, organized circles from young people and selected suitable persons for work in Russia. For rallies, lectures, lectures in the hall of the restaurant Avenue du Choisy, there were 800-1000 people.

    Abroad, I collaborated in Iskra, and wrote exclusively about the need for armed insurrection, tactics of street fighting, etc. In 1905 I came to Petersburg and worked exclusively in military organizations, conducting propaganda in the Preobrazhensky and Semenov regiments , among the garrison of the Peter and Paul Fortress. Practically I worked with the Bolsheviks, I did not understand the party differences and was mainly interested in agitation and propaganda in the troops, for the purpose of preparing an armed insurrection, questions of tactics of street fighting, etc. When the uprising broke out in Moscow, we sought ways to raise the movement in St. Petersburg . In March 1906, together with Antonov (Ovseyenko), I was sent as a representative of the St. Petersburg garrison to Moscow for a military conference, where I was arrested on March 27, 1906, along with Yem. Yaroslavsky, Summer, Brook, Captain Klopov, etc. After spending 6 months in Taganka, I was released on bail. In 1907, I returned to St. Petersburg and again began to work in military organizations, collaborated in the illegal newspaper Kazarma. Being arrested in October of the same year and imprisoned in the Crosses, I subsequently fled to Finland, and from there I fled abroad and settled in Paris.’

    Comment by Noa — April 4, 2019 @ 3:55 pm

  4. Noa, people don’t read Kautsky’s pre-1910 articles. They are only of historical interest and, beyond that, material that is used by the Jacobin intellectuals to get people to vote for Democrats–a task I would compare to a mother trying to get a child to take cod liver oil because it is good for them.

    Comment by louisproyect — April 4, 2019 @ 4:35 pm

  5. Too much honor calling them Neo-Kautskyan. Like I commented on your previous piece (Kautsky? No thanks), what else can we except given the political nature of the DSA: that they sing the praises of Joseph Hansen? Given the known limitations of the Jacobin crowd, it’s logical for them to try to reconnect, in a very modest, with figures of the socialist movement such as Kautsky – meet them where they are, take them on their word, and show that they fail to live up even to the post-1910 Kautsky. Or better, Louis, please check (rather than Debbs) the writings of the founder of the SP, Morris Hillquit and the latter’s organ The New Leader to which archive you have access via Columbia (http://search.opinionarchives.com/TNL_Web/DigitalArchive.aspx?panes=2), and you’ll find some articles that you can make available, that show the necessity of an independent Socialist Party, or at worst joining a Labor Party (but never working for the Democratic Party).

    Comment by Noa — April 4, 2019 @ 6:19 pm

  6. Karl Kautsky should be forever remembered by those who are trying to change the world for two phrases which sum up the “passive radicalism” of even his “radical” days, as Anton Panekoek aptly characterized his politics in the 1910 debate on the state (in which Lenin, by the way, bet on the wrong horse), In what is supposed to be his most left wing work, “The Road to Power,” Kautsky proclaims that, while the SPD is a “revolutionary party,” it is, by no means a “revolution-making party.” Now didn’t another told white guy with a gray beard that Kautsky knew once say something about the point being to change the world, not just interpret it? Of course when you are trying to interpret it for the SPD party bureaucracy and the trade union tops, who Kautsky provided “orthodox” cover for, interpreting takes top priority. Hence Kautsky’s passive politics and positions at almost every instance that push came to shove between the radicals like Rosa Luxembourg and the SPD hierarchy…even before 1914. Militant mass action and even armed struggle might be OK for backward Russia but not for Germany, where, after all, the SPD bureaucracy had a lot more to lose than it’s chains.

    Likewise during WWI, Kautsky lamented that the “International was an instrument for peace time and not during war.” Kautsky, it should be remembered, thought that inter-imperialist wars were a thing of the past, having been replaced by the peaceful process of “ultra-imperialism.” While this came at least four years later, there is a thread of continuity in both Kautsky’s thought and the practice underlying it. Practically, upholding the all-inclusive peace-time party served to provide an alibi for those so-called Socialists who supported the imperialist war, who Kautsky actually disagreed with but dreaded breaking from. Theoretically, it followed from his his unilinear, evolutionary Darwinist stagism of socialism being “historically inevitable” and not requiring anything other than the “tried and trusted” methods of parliamentary cretinism…ocasionally backed up by tightly controlled mass mobilizations.

    While Blanc likes to divide the post 1910 Kautsky from the earlier model, it was only before1893 that Kautsky took a much more critical approach to parliament and the bourgeois state. However, his post Efurt Program politics totally subordinated anything and everything within the workers movement to winning elections to the Reichstag and he more and more came to see the modern parliamentary state of the bourgeoisie as the exclusive vehicle for socialist transformation, i.e., the DOP…providing the ruling class accepted history’s verdict on its fate. Of course, before 1917 no-one in the socialist movement had a clear picture on what vehicle the working class would use to take power and exercise its rule, but as far back as 1910 Anton Pannekoek had already called him out on his parliamentary cretinism in a debate within the German SPD. And when workers councils did make their appearance, in Germany as well as Russia, Kautsky continued to insist on the necessity for parliament to reign supreme, even though the latter clearly represented the rule of the capitalist class in the life and death struggle for power that was taking place thought much of Europe at the time.

    Rehabilitating Kautsky, while denigrating Trotsky, is the latest tool of the trade of banishing what demons remain from the 60s and 70s from the left and making it respectable enough to find its proper place in the Democratic Party. Back in the 70s, Antonio Gramsci was the preferred candidate for that role, possessing a Communist pedigree that Kautsky could never have in the eyes of demoralized lefties who were looking for a road forward but not yet ready to go whole hog into the DP. For those who did, Michael Harrington upheld the CP’s craven class collaboration of the 1930s Popular Front as an example to be followed, minus the connections to Uncle Joe Stalin, of course, as he pointed out in his debates with the SWP’s George Novack and Peter Cameo. Today’s hipster socialists of the Jacobin milieu are no less enamored of the CP’s supposed successes of that period as they have emphasized in many an article on that site as it serves to legitimize their orientation towards the Dems. Kautsky provides a far more “Marxist” theoretical framework for such politics than Earl Browder or George Dimitrov can. And, just as importantly, he also is identified with the all-inclusive party model that characterized Social Democracy in its hey day and has always been held up as the alternative to “Leninism” by a wide range of its opponents, including Solidarity and the DSA.

    Comment by Roy Rollin — April 4, 2019 @ 9:00 pm

  7. This blog post is overreacting to Eric Blanc’s article. There are fundamental problems with his position, to be sure, but this blog did not address any of them whatsoever.

    My full criticism of Eric Blanc’s article, Post-Insurrectionary Strategy, can be found here:

    Comment by Jacob Richter — April 6, 2019 @ 6:07 pm

  8. Eric Blanc’s usage of the word “center” is inaccurate. There was indeed an orthodox Marxist center, but it existed before the vulgar “center” from 1910 onwards. The orthodox Marxist center, or revolutionary center, very much included the likes of the Bolsheviks. They opposed both the strategy of reform coalitions, advocated by those to their right, and the strategy of shutting down the state with mass action, advocated by those to their left. The latter strategy had its genesis in the insurrectionary general strike of Mikhail Bakunin, flowered in the violence romanticism of Georges Sorel, and continued in very diluted form in the works of Rosa Luxemburg and Leon Trotsky.

    So Blanc connects the dots between Kautsky and Lenin and you connect them between Bakunin and Trotsky. I hate to break it to you, but you are even more far-fetched than Blanc.

    Comment by louisproyect — April 6, 2019 @ 6:16 pm

  9. I merely referenced Mike Macnair’s connection of the dots in that addendum. Yes, that same Mike Macnair who was attacked by some Trot group for his “attempt to revive Kautskyism” in Revolutionary Strategy.

    Comment by Jacob Richter — April 6, 2019 @ 6:52 pm

  10. Oh, the CPGB. I should have known. Totally into Lars Lih. Ugh.

    Comment by louisproyect — April 6, 2019 @ 6:55 pm

  11. I wish to bring to your attention the new independent political network Marxist Center, and its strategy of base building.

    If it is true that DSA Momentum has orchestrated attempts to squash mutual aid organizing by a DSA tendency focused on racial minorities, then at least the Marxist Center aims to double down on that strategy of mutual aid, solidarity networks, alternative culture, etc.

    Like it or not, the “Kautsky Revival” outside the DSA has left the station.

    Comment by Jacob Richter — April 7, 2019 @ 6:57 am

  12. If I’m not mistaken, Didn’t the workers get their asses kicked in Finland…at least somewhat thanks to the constant vacillations of the kautskyist leadership of their party? Unlike the bolsheviks, they kept their red guards under wraps until the last moment…when it was way too late. If that’s blanc’s idea of a strategy to be followed, I’d hate to see what he considers as one to be avoided. There have been good articles in the Australian socialist alternatives journal on both Finland and kautsky over the past two years.

    And yes, as Bukharin pointed out in a series of polemics with Lenin during WWI, some of the anarchists Were way better on the state than kautsky and the rest of his ilk ever were. See the article in socialist register on this by sawyer back in the early 80s for a detailed analysis.

    Comment by Roy Rolliin — April 7, 2019 @ 9:15 pm

  13. Roy, my previous comment to you didn’t appear. I wanted to dispute your claim that Lenin sided with Kautsky at the time of the state debate against Pannekoek. In a comment I wrote below Kautsky’s article ‘The New Tactics’ (posted on the Libcom site), I showed by textual evidence that already then (in 1912) Lenin sides against Kautsky. What is more, he believed the Bremen Left (including Radek) was not up to the task of criticizing Kautsky! You bring up Sawyer’s article in Socialist Register. I take specific aim against Sawyer’s claim that Lenin had no problem with Kautsky’s position on the state until the time of his polemics with Bukharin, which supposedly “converted” the Kautskyite Lenin to the Lenin of State&Revolution.

    Comment by Noa — April 8, 2019 @ 4:42 am

  14. By the way doesn’t this kautsky revival have more to do with its partisans embracing the all inclusive broad party of the second international rather than squabbling over obscure debates around the April theses? Of course coming from Lars lih and his protégée Eric blanc they serve as a means to discredit Trotsky and the Trotskyist interpretations of those events which have dominated far left analysis since the late 60s…as have the varied tendencies of trotskyism. Don’t the organizational issues have some connection to the purely political ones?

    Comment by Roy Rollin — April 8, 2019 @ 1:58 pm

  15. As far as the DSA goes, with its Democratic party obsession (which, if anything, has only increased since the rise of Bernie Sanders), CP-style popular frontism provides the perfect cover for its advocating craven class collaboration at the ballot box. Hence Sankara’s and Chibar’s constant positive references to it as well as Harrington’s long time love affair with it as well…minus Uncle Joe and the Ruskie connection. Kautsky, even at his pre-1918 worst, was way to the left of all of the DSA’s luminaries insofar as his insistence on political class independence goes. For that matter so was Victor Berger! Since his parliamentary cretinism allows for a limited space for mass activity, provided it’s carefully controlled by the party, of course, it can be utilized by an Eric Blanc to provide more of a “classical Marxist” theory than the “20th Century Americanism” of the CPUSA in the 1930s for the more left inclined DSAers who read Jacobin. Likewise Kautsky’s passive radicalism commits no-one to nothing other than keeping the powder dry until the day comes while his broad based party of the whole class provides amnesty in advance for those supporting Democratic Party, i.e., capitalist, candidates as well as imperialist wars.

    Comment by Roy Rollin — April 8, 2019 @ 8:02 pm

  16. IMO voting for Democrats per se is not the evil–the evil is doing that and working for that instead of organizing for safety, self-defense–loosely speaking–or “survival” if you want to be lurid–and the advancement of a socialist program when the Democrats lose or are corrupted, or both, as invariably happens.

    There must be solidarity–and dare one say it–comradeship before people will risk letting go of the old, cruel, delusional idols of capitalism. This has to begin somewhere and will not arise from Sanders, AOC, or Jacobin study groups–or for that matter from futzes with meaningless PhDs from institutions like the Nazi-spawning University of Virginia, cradle of Richard Spencer.

    Comment by Farans Kalosar — April 11, 2019 @ 2:19 pm

  17. In addition to my article on reddit, a whole spat of articles have been written because of Eric Blanc’s original article:

    https://johnriddell.wordpress.com/2019/04/13/revolutionary-strategy-and-the-electoral-road/
    (this one references the original article plus two other articles written afterwards)

    https://cosmonaut.blog/2019/04/13/revolution-or-the-democratic-road-to-socialism-a-reply-to-eric-blanc/

    Comment by Jacob Richter — April 14, 2019 @ 11:45 pm


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