Saturday, August 29, 2015

Tolstoy 'Impossibilist'. (1905)

From the November 1905 issue of the Socialist Standard

As against those professing Socialists who endeavour to secure the kudos and advertisement attaching to the identification with their position of individuals who have, by diverse methods, attained to prominence in the public eye, we are concerned that the message we bring to the working-class shall be assessed on its own merits. Just as we, knowing its harmfulness as well as its futility, are opposed to the endeavour to obtain support for Socialism by tactics of compromise and the propagation of something less than Socialism, so we are opposed to the endeavour to create for Socialism a standing of greater "respectability" by covering it with the glamour of great names—whether of monarchical countesses or mystic counts. Hence the publication in another column of the letter from Tolstoy.

Tolstoy's disclaimer may come as an awkward pronouncement to those notoriety-mongers who, having claimed to be Socialists, have claimed Count Tolstoy for their supporter and widely advertised the connection. Tolstoy, of course, is simply a Christist who has failed to understand—because perhaps he never studied—the materialist basis to human thought and activity and who thinks that human loves and hates can be divorced from material conditions when, of course, it is precisely the material motive—the desire for material improvement and the methods of realising it—that brought men into association, into groups and tribes and nations, an association that has given birth to, and moulded, their thoughts and aspirations, their loves and and hates and fears.

Generally speaking, man's capacity to love his neighbour will depend upon the economic relationship of both. It is sheer fatuity to expect one to love the other when they are mutually engaged in a grim struggle for the wherewithal to live, a struggle that the conditions governing industry forces upon them. A man may understand that industrial conditions render it impossible for his fellow to do other than battle with him for bread, but he cannot love unless it is possible to conceive of a love that finds expression in a fight in no respect dissimilar from the fight between men who hate and hate whole-heartedly. The law of self preservation impels the fight and the lesson is soon learnt that the victory is to the best hater rather than the best lover. It is quite possible that the participants in the struggle may prefer to love each other, but they will understand if they give heed to the Socialist that the only way by which love can be made possible is through the removal of the conditions that necessitate hate. They must first of all remove the conditions that set them at each other's throat. Tolstoy has laid hold of the wrong end of the problem, and it is because his gospel can only have mischievous effects upon the endeavours we are making to organise the working-class upon the basis of class interests, that we take the opportunity this letter affords to make it clear, upon his own showing, that he is outside the Socialist movement at the same time that we echo the quaintly worded regret of our Japanese comrades that "Tolstoy is yet in error as to Socialism and the solution of social problems just in the same way as the common shallow people do."

Literary Curiosities. No. 2 - Tolstoy on Socialism. (1905)

From the November 1905 issue of the Socialist Standard

(Reprinted from "The Chokugen" (the plain speaker), the organ of the Socialist Party of Japan)

Toula, Yasnaya Poliana.

Dear friend IsooAbe (Editor, the Chokugen).

It was a great pleasure for me to receive your letter and your paper, with the English article. I thank you heartily for both.

Though I never doubted that there are in Japan a great many reasonable, moral and religeous men who are opposed to the horrible crime of war, which is now perpetrated by both betrayed and stupefied nations, I was very glad to get the proof of it.

It is a great joy for me to know that I have friends and co-workers in Japan, with which I can be in friendly intercourse.

Wishing to be quite sincere with you, as I wish to be with every esteemed friend, I must tell you that I do not approve of socialism and am sorry to know that the most spiritually advanced part of your—so clever and energetic—people has taken from Europe the very feeble, illusory and fallacious theory of socialism, which in Europe is beginning to be abandoned.

Socialism has for its aim the satisfaction of the meanest part of human nature, his material well-being and by the means it proposes, can never attain them.

The true well-being of humanity is spiritual i.e. moral and includes the material well-being. And this higher goal can be attained only by religeous i.e moral perfection of all the units which composes nations and humanity.

By religeon I understand the reasonably belief in a (general for all humanity) law of God, which practically is exposed in the precept of loving every man and doing to every body what one wishes to be done to you.

I know that this method seems to be less expedient than socialism and other frail theories, but it is the sole true one. And all the efforts we make in trying to realise false—and not realising their aim—theories only hinder as to employ true means to attain the degree of happiness of mankind and of every individual which is proper to our times.

Excuse for the liberty I take to discuss your creed, and for my bad English and believe me to be your friend.

Fifty Years Mark-Time (1950)

Book Review from the February 1950 issue of the Socialist Standard

Mr. Francis Williams, one-time Editor of the Daily Herald, has written a history of the Labour Party. "Fifty Years' March, The Rise of the Labour Party", published by Odhams Press, Ltd. We suspect that Mr. Williams wrote with a distemper brush. He has certainly given the Labour Party an unblemished white-washing. The main theme of this history is summed up by Mr. Attlee in the foreword to the book. He says:-
"It is a story very characteristic of Britain, showing the triumph of reasonableness and practicability over doctrinaire impossibilism."
Mr. Williams insists that the Labour Party is a Socialist Party, claiming that after years of endeavour by the Independent Labour Party, the Fabian Society and the Clarion Scouts, it finally became a Socialist Party when it was re-organised by Arthur Henderson following the war of 1914-18. He says that the programme contained in "Labour and the New Social Order" put the seal on its Socialist character. But Mr. Williams does not give us even an attempt at a definition of Socialism. He writes on various pages of Christian Socialists, Marxist Socialists, Guild Socialists, reformists who were Socialists, industrial actionists who were Socialists, in fact, all sorts of different Socialists until we are forced to wonder if the word Socialism has any meaning at all for Mr. Williams.

Here, according to Mr. Williams, is Keir Hardie's brand of Socialism : —
"Only if men were moved, he believed, by the warm hearted, idealistic gospel of Socialism could there be created a new social order . . . " (page 13.)
The author quotes Bruce Glasier : —
. . . "It is from the prophets, apostles and saints, the religious mystics and heretics, rather than from statesmen, economists and political reformers, that the socialist movement derives its examples and ideals . . . Socialism means not only the Socialisation of wealth, not only the Socialisation of the means of production and distribution, but of our lives, our hearts—ourselves . . . " (page 105.)
That Mr. Williams tells us, "was the spirit that made the early I.L.P.". That spirit, he continues, "when harnessed to the intellectual integrity of the Fabians and the practical idealism and economic experience of the trade unions" made the Labour Party. Well, we knew that there was something wrong with the Labour Party, but we did not know that it was that.

Of Ramsay MacDonald, a man who, we are told on page 169, was suspected by trade unionists of being too Socialist, we learn that "he was a Socialist of a peculiarly philosophical and inactive—indeed one might say non-political—kind. His Socialism was not based on an understanding of the economic forces at work in society. He had little knowledge of economics . . . What made him a Socialist was a romanticized conception of natural history, acquired during his early biological studies and transformed without amendment to the political struggle" (pages 198-199).

Later in the book, the author quotes with approval from Robert Blatchford: "We can't have Socialism without Socialists" and, Mr. Williams says: " . . . that was the true answer . . . " Having read in his book of the different brands of "Socialism" expounded by Bernard Shaw, Sidney Webb, Robert Blatchford, Victor Grayson, Tom Mann, J. H. Thomas, Philip Snowden and a shoal of others including the Communism of John Wyclif, we are left astounded that the author can quote that short passage from Blatchford and continue to call the Labour Party a Socialist Party.

One thing the author does make clear, although possibly without intending to do so. That is, that the founders of the Labour Party wanted to build a political Party with a substantial numerical strength and they were quite prepared to sacrifice their respective "Socialist" principles at the altar of a large membership. He tells that most of the prominent early workers in the Labour Party were far-seeing enough to build an organisation with numerical and financial strength and a firm foundation of mass support. He proceeds to show us throughout the pages of the book, how the so called Socialists of the Labour Party have had to compromise, twist, wriggle, turn, betray and mis-lead the non-Socialist mass support in order to hold it together. And after studying that sort of thing for years, seeing the struggle between the mass support and the leadership, the desertions, the betrayals, the collapses, and the failure to prevent the evils of capitalism, Mr. Williams still thinks that the Labour Party is a Socialist Party. He still has not learned that the strength of a working-class Party lies not just in its numbers but in its understanding of its objective and its determination to achieve it.

The first few chapters of the book present an interesting story of the early struggles of the workers in this country and of the efforts leading up to the foundation of the Labour Party, although the author betrays his prejudice when he writes of men like Hyndman and Karl Marx. Altogether the book is very readable providing the reader does not get as confused as the author as to what Socialism really is. If this book can be read in conjunction with the SOCIALIST STANDARD for the years that are covered it makes instructive and interesting reading.
W. Waters

'Points for Patriots'. (1917)

From the March 1917 issue of the Socialist Standard
Breathes there a man with soul so dead —
   Some modern slave at factory gate
Who never to himself hath said,
   In cynic bitterness and hate:
"This is my own, my native land" 
Breathes there a man with soul so dead —
   A numbered hand in a factory hell
Who never to himself hath said,
   When hurried to toil by the factory bell:
"This is my own, my native land"? 
Breathes there a man with soul so dead
   Mocked by flaunted wealth and power
Who never to himself hath said,
   As he sold himself for sixpence an hour:
"This is my own, my native land"?

The Warmakers (1999)

From the July 1999 issue of the Socialist Standard

A TV documentary series, "The Century," with Peter Jennings, shown recently in Britain on the History Channel, reviewed some of the most significant aspects of the 20th century. One segment, on the development of the atom bomb, made a point well worth stopping to think about.

Late in the Second World War, the generals and the politicians made a tactical decision with chilling implications: they switched from striking at military targets (without regard for the "collateral damage" this might inflict on civilians) to the deliberate, premeditated mass murder of civilian populations. They were able to make this switch, which they did quietly and without fanfare, because TNT-based weapons technology—delivery vehicles included—had evolved so rapidly under the lash of war. As one of the scientists working on the Manhattan Project put it, with the atom bomb the government's interest shifted from simply making a new weapon for winning the war to making a new weapon. Having gained the ability to manufacture and deploy large numbers of bombs quickly and efficiently, the government began to go in for destroying not merely military targets but the economic infrastructure on which weapons manufacture and deployment was based—indifferent to the fact that this meant targeting ordinary non-combatant populations for annihilation.

Winning the war was the justifying obsession where TNT bomb technology was concerned. But the interest in developing a weapon of unprecedented destructive capabilities—initially by the scientists themselves, so horrified by the Nazi war machine, who proposed it as a "humane" alternative to a war of incredibly vast destruction—set up a drive to test it under battlefield conditions. If you could use something so powerful, why should you not use it? The generals and the politicians had become so blunted to the emotional impact of directing a process of mass murder that the human implications of this radically new tactical emphasis escaped them: some involved in the Project reported having "misgivings," but their vacillations were easily neutralized.

Only Leo Szilard actively went on the offensive, campaigning against the new weapon as an error of judgment on the part of the scientists; but the government, having accepted the initiative of the scientists, wrapped in its humanitarian rationale, stonily turned them out when they did protest. Truman, along with his generals, was already moving so fast that it was quite impossible for the protesters to catch up with them, and the decision to drop the atom bomb on Hiroshima raced arrogantly ahead on the assumption that what the protesters had to say regarding policy did not matter politically or militarily. And very few of them turned against the Project or their connections with the government's war effort. Edward Teller, in fact, even went on to invent that great pseudo-scientific monstrosity, the hydrogen bomb, "800 times more powerful than the atomic bomb" which had so appalled its own creators.

The only possible use weapons of such numerically huge destructive ability could have was to terroristically murder (or threaten to murder) enormous numbers of people—still, of course, on a military justification. The convenient tactical switch of emphasis had become a strategy expressing the highest degree of insanity. All of it had become possible because the process of technological development had gotten so thoroughly socialized that the designers and users of bomb technology could almost innocently devise weapons of mass destruction entirely in the absence of exposure to the latter's effects. In ancient times, generals and politicians practising the "art" of war had had firsthand experience of its impact; turning the human imagination to inventing better weapons, evil though it was, at least registered a direct, emotional sense of awareness. The monsters who clawed their way to the top in Imperial Rome nevertheless retained some basic sense of humanity in their behavior, if only because it was still not yet technologically possible to go off the deep end.

With the Second World War, however, the separation between warmakers and civilians had become a sort of proscenium arch made of steel, complete with war rooms and theatres of combat. Emotionally, the warmakers showed that ruling classes had finally lost the ability to relate to the effects of their own efforts. Since almost no wars in history have ever been decided on by the people who were called on to fight them, this represented a radical step forward in the emotional implosion lived daily by warring élites: their peculiar occupational hazard. These élites could no longer relate humanly and emotionally to their targets. With the Manhattan Project, war stopped being hell for those who decided to have a war fought by other people, to whom they gave orders; with the result that the outcome of global thermonuclear war would at last show the world there really was a Hell after all: the planet Earth. The blunting emotional impact of mass murder had finally attained schizophrenic proportions in the minds of the warmakers.

Thus, the capitalist class of today, corrupted as they are by this emotional sickness, have acquired an absolute and terrible decision-making power that autocrats and emperors could once only have dreamed of even as the relative numbers of the warmakers among them have dwindled to extraordinarily tiny proportions. Capitalist intelligence has entered a world that no longer recognises its own origins in human intelligence, with which human beings are naturally endowed to promote the survival of our species. But the capitalist class will only recognise those fragments of that larger intelligence as long as these support their power or promise to extend their advantage. Since capitalists in general all have this warmaking sickness that only "breaks out" in the highest circles, where it assumes such forms as the military-industrial complex, we humans down here below can expect to find no security in their adopting responsible policies on warmaking.

War is the problem, and capitalism promotes—encourages—the situations that result in war. We do not need capitalism, but we do need to protect ourselves from their unsanitary habits by bringing the world back into line with ordinary human emotions. The only solution to war is a system of society that people control, one in which élites cannot appear. The only way to lay the foundations for this is to eliminate the twin contagions of capital and wage labor, on which the whole structure of capitalist élitism has come to rest.
Ron Elbert

The Passing Show: Mr. Wilson on class (1963)

The Passing Show Column from the August 1963 issue of the Socialist Standard

Mr. Wilson on class

In a recent interview published in the Observer, Harold Wilson, Leader of the Labour Party, made some extraordinary statements. Among other things he said:
“The Labour Party must represent the whole country. If you mean what class do I think I am—well, what is the answer? Elementary school, Oxford common room, what does it add up to? There are millions of people—trained, skilled, professional—for whom these phrases about class are becoming more and more meaningless. The white coat, the growing technological character of modern industry is making some of the old battlegrounds unreal.”
Wilson apparently thinks that if a worker can speak grammatically, or do a skilled job, he is no longer a worker. It seems that in some unexplained way the worker can, in Wilson's view, become a capitalist by taking English lessons at night school. What a maze of unreality must surround a man who thinks that wearing a white coat instead of overalls alters a man's class position in society. And the statement that "the Labour Party must represent the whole country "' is merely ridiculous when put against the fact of the vast chasm which yawns between the ten per cent, of haves and the ninety per cent, of have-nots.

There are no prizes for the answer to Wilson's question about what class in society he is in. In fact, the answer is here—if he has enough property to live without working, he is a member of the upper class; if not, he is a worker. There are also no prizes for the answer to this question—in whose class interest is Wilson working? With his talk about "representing the whole country" and his denial that the class struggle even exists, the answer is crystal clear: Wilson is working in the interest of the capitalist class.

Too much
Earlier in the same series, Wilson actually committed himself to the following remarks:

“Quite honestly, I've never read Das Kapital. I got only as far as page two— that's where the footnote is nearly a page long, I felt that two sentences of main text and a page of footnote were too much.”

This is despite his own claim that "economics became his field."

Mr. Wilson was apparently in such a haze that he could not distinguish page two from page fifty-two, or the beginning of a chapter from the end of it. The first footnotes in Das Kapital which might reduce the main text to this extent are the ones that concern Ricardo, at the end of chapter one, on commodities. In the edition nearest to hand (William Glaisher, London, 1909) these footnotes begin at page fifty-two. In no conceivable edition could they come on page two.

But what a pity that Wilson was not able to overcome the tremendous hurdle presented to his comprehension by some rather long footnotes (he was, after all, only an Oxford lecturer on economics). He might have learned that there is more to a man's position in society than the colour of the coat he wears. He might even have learned that there are two classes in society—an owning class and a working class. One feels that he might not have survived the shock.

Fruits of victory

Colonial "freedom fighters," leaders of "independence movements," run so true to form as soon as their countries have achieved their "independence" that it becomes almost farcical. Once they themselves are in power, once the native capitalist class has ousted the imperialists, their tune always changes immediately and abruptly. They always make the same speech to warn all the suckers who supported  the "independence movements," thinking it would make a radical change, that the workers' position will be exactly what it was before; only the nationality of the exploiters has changed.

Jomo Kenyatta is the latest to make this speech (The Times, 29/5/63):
We are not going to compromise our independence by begging for assistance. The Government will make it quite clear that our progress, our hopes, our ambitions will be fulfilled only if we have hard work from every citizen.
So now the struggle is over, we've all fought hard, victory has been won: and your reward is—a lot more hard work, and don't you forget it.

And yet the workers all over the world still go on falling for these confidence tricks.

It's easy for some

Two small girls, one none, the other twelve, are "to share in a 25,000,000 development scheme in Hampstead, London. The investment has been given to them by their father, 42-year-old property man Mr. Peter Robins (Sunday Express, 28/4/63). By the time the girls are respectively nineteen and sixteen, they should have an income of about 10,000 per year each.

The way to get into the capitalist class, the capitalist class tell us, is to work hard and save. But the capitalists themselves always seem to start off by being capitalists. It's certainly a lot quicker when Daddy gives you such a lovely start, isn't it?
Alwyn Edgar

Cooking the Books: No Profits, No Growth (2013)

The Cooking the Books Column from the January 2013 issue of the Socialist Standard
Growth –the accumulation of capital –is what capitalism is all about. There can be a debate about whether this growth is a good (increasing society’s ability to produce and so, in theory, to eliminate poverty and deprivation) or a bad thing (damaging the environment and depleting resources because of the unplanned way it happens), but this is rather academic as it’s going to happen anyway. Or not. Growth under capitalism is not a straight line but more like the blade of a saw with peaks and troughs. At the moment the economy is in a trough, with production 4 percent below the last peak in 2008.
Governments know enough about capitalism to realise that the way-out of the current situation for them is ‘growth’. This would lead not only to increased consumption and a fall in unemployment but also to a rise in government revenue from taxation and so ease its debt problem. Which is why the Coalition has adopted a ‘growth strategy’. But growth is not something governments can control.
Growth comes about by profits being re-invested in expanding production and productive capacity, and so depends on profits being made. The flip side is that if profits are not being made there can be no growth. In fact, growth stops precisely because it has become unprofitable to produce at the same level as previously. Which is what happened in 2008.
Growth won’t resume until it again becomes profitable, as the government has found out by the failure of one of its policies – encouraging private investment in infrastructure projects. Philip Lachowycz, of Fathom Consulting, noted in the Times (26 November):
‘The main plan has been to kick start investment for around 500 proposed infrastructure projects with pension fund capital worth £20bn. So far the proposals have completely failed to take-off. The government has been unable to encourage the private sector to invest in new roads, housing or anything else for that matter. Official data show that infrastructure spending is down 11 percent from a year ago and the government has raised less than £1bn.’
The CBI demanded that the government insure capitalist firms against any losses from this but the government has refused so the private investment has not materialised (so much for the much-vaunted ‘risk-taking’ that capitalist apologists trot out to justify profits). But, says Lachowycz,:
‘There is a simpler explanation –the chronically low rate of return. At Fathom Consulting we calculate that the real rate of return on all fixed capital expenditure has collapsed in recent years and stands at only 0.5 per cent. For infrastructure specifically, it is lower still, and may even be negative.’
On their website accompanying the article is a graph of the ‘real rate of return on fixed capital investment’ from 1988 to 2012, showing a fall from 4 percent in 2007 to 0.5 percent today. But it is not only the return on investment in fixed capital that is too low:
‘OK, but surely everybody agrees that the UK has a severe shortage of housing and should now embark on a major house building programme? Not us. For housing specifically, we find that the rate of return is deeply negative, as house prices remain significantly overvalued relative to income.’
What a condemnation of capitalism this rather cynical but eminently realistic comment represents! People need houses, hospitals, schools and other amenities but they are not going to get them because the ‘rate of return’ is too low or negative. Time to get rid of the profit system.

The Death of Trotsky (1940)

From the September 1940 issue of the Socialist Standard

Through the attack of an assassin Leon Trotsky is dead. The Press reports that the attack was made in Trotsky's own home, the assailant having wormed his way into the aged revolutionary's friendship through many visits to his home in Mexico.

Thus the murderer avoided the usual search which the guards of Trotsky's person carry out in the case of all visitors, and so managed to conceal a small axe, with which the attack was made. Trotsky's dying words were to accuse the Russian Secret Police of the crime.

So ends the amazing career of one of the outstanding men of to-day. Trotsky (his real name was Bronstein) was the son of a well-to-do Jewish farmer in the Russian Ukraine. In early youth, whilst he was yet studying at High School in Odessa, he became an active member of the Russian Revolutionary Movement, whose fundamental aim was the overthrow of Czarist Autocracy. So far he was merely expressing the general need and feeling of Russian intellectuals, teachers, civil servants and such like, whose scandalously low pay added fuel to their intellectual abhorrence of a medieval despotism.

Soon, however, the character of the Russian Revolutionary Movement changed completely. The doctrines of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, interpreted and disseminated in Russia by theoreticians like Plekhanov, Struve and Axelrod in the first place, swept aside the curious mixture of destructive Nihilism and Western Liberalism so typically represented by the Party known as “Narodnaya Volya" (People's Will).

To understand the apparent contradiction of the spread of Marxism among "intellectuals" in a country so agrarian and backward as Russia, it would be necessary to go deeply into the subject, but perhaps one of the most important, certainly the immediate factor, was the absence of a strong, coherent capitalist class who could have directed the opposition to Feudal restrictions along orthodox capitalist lines.

Instead, the ferment was organised and led by “intellectuals," who took their cue from the most advanced social science which Europe then had (and still has) to offer.

In his own life-story, Trotsky tells us of the enthusiasm with which he plunged into Socialist study and the light which then suffused even the darkest and most perplexing problems.

It is curious, therefore, that a man so gifted as a writer as Trotsky undoubtedly was, has left little, if any, literary trace of his Marxist education. This is in contrast to men like Lenin, Martov, Riazanov, Bukharin and many other Russians, who have given us ample proof of their familiarity with the theoretical system of Marx.

After spending some time in Russian prisons and Siberian exile, years of hardship and suffering which left their mark on Trotsky's health, he managed to escape only to be arrested again as one of the ringleaders of the revolt at Petrograd in 1905.

Escaping once more, he left Russia and spent the intervening years until the Bolshevik uprising in October, 1917, in various European countries and, finally, the United States.

During this time he was continually in touch with the exiles who were planning revolt, and he played an important role in the deliberations of the Russian Social-Democratic Party, although he was then only a young man in the twenties.

When the split in this organisation took place at a conference in London in 1903, Trotsky took an individual stand.

It is not true that he was a Menshevik, for, although he, like the Mensheviks, opposed Lenin's plan for an organisation of revolutionary conspirators to be controlled by a dictatorship in the centre, his fundamental views differed from both factions.

Trotsky himself made it clear that he did not consider the controversy important enough to warrant a split, and continued to work with both groups in an attempt to re-establish unity.

But whereas both factions were agreed that the coming Russian Revolution would be essentially capitalist and that Russia would consequently have to pass through an era of capitalist democracy, Trotsky was alone in proclaiming that the overthrow of Czardom could be accomplished by the Russian movement alone, which could maintain itself in power and so cut out completely the period of capitalist transition.

This point of view he elaborated into a theory called "Permanent Revolution."

The basic points of this theory rest on the assumption that power could be held by Socialists in Russia long enough to enable the workers of the more advanced Western countries, helped, of course, by their Russian comrades, to introduce Socialism. Then the material backwardness of Russia could be overcome through the united efforts of a Socialist Europe.

None of the Bolsheviks, including Lenin, accepted this view until after the seizure of power in October, 1917.

This theory is still the kernel of "Trotskyism," and from the S.P.G.B. standpoint that kernel is rotten with error.

Lenin himself had to admit that their hopes for a Socialist revolution in the West had been frustrated, but he and Trotsky blamed this on bad and treacherous leadership.

What the Bolsheviks did not grasp, then any more than their would-be imitators can do to-day, is the need for an understanding of Socialism by a majority of the working-class. This understanding alone would make leadership, good or bad, impossible.

But Trotsky who himself failed to grasp all the implications of Socialism, continued to nourish these illusions to the end.

Hence his bitter opposition to Stalin, whom he accuses of having betrayed the "Socialist" Revolution in Russia.

Trotsky's role in the seizure of power by the Bolsheviks was second only to that of Lenin. This fact is generally recognised, except by the hide-bound followers of the present Russian Dictatorship.

His talent for military organisation and strategy helped to save the Bolsheviks from being defeated by the armies of the Czarist generals and the half-hearted intervention of the Allies.

This was often asserted by Lenin and, at the time, admitted by Stalin.

But Trotsky did not achieve this military success without ruthless discipline, a ruthlessness which showed itself again in his suppression of the revolt of the sailors at Kronstadt.

When charged by Kautsky with using methods of terrorism, Trotsky replied with a defence justifying the means by the end, as if the two could ever be separated.

Socialism, the pinnacle of human development, can never be achieved by methods that are themselves reactionary and anti-human; it is more than the irony of his logic that Trotsky himself should have met his end in such a violent manner.

How can the fall of Trotsky be explained?

Trotsky himself ascribes it to the chicanery of Stalin and his associates, but this explanation is both shallow and misleading.

Fundamentally, Trotsky fell from power because his theory of Permanent Revolution and his consequent insistence on continued revolutionary agitation abroad would have cut off all technical aid from the Western world, and so made any attempt at industrial development more difficult in Russia.

Another important factor was Trotsky's standing in the party clique which ruled the country. For although his military successes had probably made him the most popular man with the Russian masses, the Bolshevik party-machine, controlled by the secretary, Stalin, regarded him as an interloper. As already explained, Trotsky had maintained an individual stand until the October upheaval, therefore his hold on the Bolshevik party was not strong and was finally broken by the Stalin, Zinoviev, Kamenev clique.

The last two have since been legally murdered by their former associate; in this way Stalin has attained a personal power unequalled by any Czar.

Trotsky's misunderstanding was further exemplified by his contradictory attitude towards the Soviet Union. Bitterly hostile towards the regime, yet he urged that should Russia be involved in war, it would be the duty of all workers, inside or outside Russia, to fight in “defence” of that country, whilst at the same time working for the overthrow of Stalin.

This inconsistency he defended on the grounds that the Russian economic system, i.e., state control, was essentially working-class, and apparently required only a change in its political administration to perfect it for working-class needs.

This error is bound up with Trotsky's confusion between State-capitalism and Socialism, evidence of which can be found in his writings.

Trotsky's personal qualities are of minor interests to Socialists. As a political pamphleteer he was outstanding and he was also a first-class orator. But unless the world-proletariat can harness such gifts to serve the struggle for Socialism, they will be wasted and even harmful to workers' interests, although, and as in the case of Leon Trotsky, there is no doubt that his whole life was sincerely dedicated to their cause.
Sid Rubin

Lessons from the American Elections (1929)

From the January 1929 issue of the Socialist Standard

The results of the elections for President make interesting reading. The Communists, masquerading as the Workers' Party, had a programme of immediate demands or reforms running into considerably over 100 and calculated to sweep the country. They polled 40,000 votes, or less than half the membership they claimed when they began in 1919 and before they adapted their name and programme to appeal to the masses.

The Socialist Labour Party polled 21,000 votes, against 30,000 four years ago. Their periodicals were full of "Electionitis," although the S.L.P. believes that "only the trade unions can set on foot the true political of labor," a claim which they have fathered on to Karl Marx, but can't find where and when he said such a thing.

With a party like the S.L.P. claiming that religion is a private matter, in a country chock full of belief in spooks they should have polled a heavy vote. The Socialist Party of America received about 250,000 votes, or about one-quarter of what they received when they ran Debs for President. With a long reform programme appealing to Labour as well as to "all classes," they can't stop their vote from falling.

To trim their sails a little more, the Socialist Party of America have recently decided to eliminate from the application for membership form, all references to "class struggle," "Capitalist Class," and "collective ownership," and replace this with a sentence affirming belief in independent political action.

These bodies with popular appeals and reform programmes are continually asserting that their method is one calculated to get the masses with them, but as these Election results show, the policy of dangling political carrots in front of the workers fails.

In America, Al Smith, the Democratic Candidate, was able to offer all kinds of captivating reform  promises, and with a fair chance of election. So Al Smith got all the reform votes.

If the Socialist Party of America had preached Socialism and got votes for Socialism, neither Republican nor Democrat could have enticed their votes away.
Adolph Kohn