Socialist Fight Page
Leon Trotsky: I am confident of the victory of the Fourth International; Go Forward!
n an article entitled
The birth of the Bolshevik party
So- cialist Worker
on 21 January last Julie Sherry correctly sets out the differences between a revolutionary party aspioneered in theory and practice by Lenin and a reformist
“party of the whole class” as theorised by Karl Kautsky,
The Mensheviks stuck to the “common
sense” idea that a socialist
party meant one party for all workers, even if they had differentpolitics. But Vladimir Lenin, a prominent leader of the Bolsheviks,had another idea of what a party should be. His model starts withthe fact that there is a spectrum of ideas within the working class
from revolutionary to reactionary, with most people falling some- where in between. So while some workers accept racist ideas, forexample, others are staunchly anti-racist. Lenin said a revolutionary party should group together those with the most advanced ideas sothey can try to win over other people.
There, in a few pithy sentences, is the essence of Lenin-ism. So the British SWP has made a great leap forwardand at last overcome its opportunism and tailendist politi-cal method? Unfortunately no because later in the pieceshe manages to assert the exact opposite to this position,
The Bolsheviks understood that the party learns from the working class and is forged in the thick of class struggle. Its role is not to
bring “great ideas” ready
-made to workers too ignorant tohave them. It is to take the best ideas thrown up by workersthemselves, such as the soviets, and attempt to generalisethem.
Not even the “great ideas ready
made” in the works of
Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky were sufficient to leadthese workers; apparently, they would just lead them-selves. And this exactly fits their programme of bowing tothe TU bureaucracy. And then she finished with a tale of how the revolution in 1917 triumphed which is simply afairy story,
The Bolsheviks did make mistakes... Leon Trotsky de-scribed the party as lagging behind the working class. It wasdisorientated by the sudden dramatic change in the politicalenvironment.
This fails to indentify who it was lagged behind the work-ing class. The editorial board of Pravda included Vyacheslav Molotov and Alexander Shlyapnikov who had
opposed Alexander Kerensky’s provisional government
but these were ousted by Stalin and Matvei Muranov when they returned from exile in March 1917, following the February revolution. They swung the editorial line tothe right and to critical support for Kerensky with thehelp of Lev Kamenev. The ranks of the party were forcontinuing the revolution and so were opposed to this line
that “by mid
-March rank and file worker Bolshevik cellsin the Vyborg district were voting for calls to expel the
Pravda leadership from the party.” 1917 Russian Revolu-
tion - Lenin Re-arms the Party, http:// www.permanentrevolution.net/entry/1179
The vacillations of the Bolshevik leaders in Petrograd did notreflect the outlook of the rank and file Bolshevik workers who were more in touch with the mood in thefactories and bar-racks. The Bolsheviksin the Vyborg districtdemanded that powerbe taken over by theSoviet.
Bolshevism: The Road to Revolution by Alan Woods
So Sherry’s “a mas-
sive argument inthe party over what
to do in a “dualpower” situation”,
in fact was a strug-gle between Leninin alliance with theranks against alayer of old Bolshevik leaders who had taken a right wing position of support for Kerensky. When Lenin returnedin early April and put forward his revolutionary April The-ses and then Trotsky took the same line they won thisargument because there was already support for it in theranks of the Bolshevik party and some middle layers andamong the best of the other groups who were seriousabout revolution.But nonetheless there is a grain of truth or, more cor-rectly, good reason for the confusion displayed in the cen-trist method of Julie Sherry and the SWP. It was notenough to simply to have the correct programme and putthat forward to the masses in a propagandistic manner. That is what Lenin learned from the failed revolution of 1905 and the appearance of the soviets; there he saw how
he had “bent the stick”. But that did not mean that Lenin
now adopted the method of the Mensheviks, which pro-duced such good but short-term results. Their opportun-ism contained an element of listening to the masses, but ittail ended them to such a degree that it quickly led to dis-aster when reality imposed itself on the masses and onthem. From this experience he developed the theory of the Leninist party and with it the methodology of commu-nism, how to intervene and win the leadership of themasses. First let us say what is wrong with the Cliffitemethod of approach. These quotes here are from Bruce
Landau, a “left Shachtmanite” in the US in 2002:
Cliff … quotes the liberal historian Richard Pipes, who characterisesEconomism as that trend “which subordinated politics as a matter of principle”, and Cliff affirms that here Pipes has “put the‘economists’ in correct perspective”… But this critique is an ex-
tremely superficial one and therefore wrong. Pipes is wrong,(Menshevik Theodore) Dan is wrong and Cliff is wrong. All three of
them are transfixed by Economism’s form, by its temporary appear-
ance, and they therefore miss its essence entirely.