Tuesday, 31 July 2007

Glotzer, Anti-Semitism and the Degenerated Workers State

This article is in response to the article by Albert Glotzer on the Alliance for Workers Libery website here.

Glotzer, Anti-Semitism and the Degenerated Workers State

“In attacking British and American policy as equally responsible for the plight of the Jews in Germany, Mandel very gingerly by-passes critical comment about Stalinist Russia and its role in the slaughter of Europe’s Jews. The only reference made to Russia is the quoted charge of the Polish resistance movement that it was betrayed by the British, Polish and Russian governments. But again Mandel even twists this with his own comments directing attention only toward the capitalist imperialists, because, as everyone knows by now, he not only does not believe that there is such a thing as Russian imperialism, but continues to find something magically progressive in that slave society. Beyond that reference there is not another word about Stalinist policy!”

Mandel, Glotzer goes on to argue is congentially incapable of attacking Stalinist Russia over the Jews because of his workers state position. Glotzer is right to criticse Mandel for his lack of criticism of Stalinist Russia, and the role during WWII, but his argument here is nonsensical.

1. His concept of “progressive” here is not the Marxist use of that term. Instead it is the subjective use typical of moralists, meaning to ascribe some kind of sense of “goodness”. It is a hark back to the methodology of the petty-bourgeois socialists criticised by Marx in the Communist Manifesto, who criticised capitalism on the basis of all its “evils”, and in so doing failed to recognise its really historical progressiveness arising from the potential its new productive relations opened up.

2. The implication from Glotzer’s argument is that had the USSR REALLY been a Workers State, then the anti-semitism could not have occurred. But that is to make the same kind of petty-bourgeois analysis as referred to above. It is to treat the working-class not as something real, but as some idealised social phenomena, placed high on a pedestal that could only ever be realised in some text book. It is to view the working-class in the same way that petty-bourgeois went into reveries over the “noble savage”.

The fact is of course that had the USSR been actually under the democratic control of its real working class, and not some idealised version of what it might have been, then the anti-semitism ingrained in the working-class and peasantry over generations would more likely have run rampant. Indeed, in the first days and months of the revolution even members of the supposed vanguard party of the Russian working-class was engaging in acts of Great Russian chauvinism against Ukrainians and other nationalities, and Trotsky records the presence of Black Hundredism in its ranks.

Yes the Stalinists did use anti-semitism for their own ends, but the fact that they were able to do so reflected the fact that the poison seed found fertile ground.

What we have here is a repetition of the idea repeated by Trotskyists for decades that it is all just a problem of leadership.

Glotzer is right to criticise Mandel, but to suggest that his lack of criticism of Stalinism in this respect flows inevitably from his workers state position is nonsense. There is no such necessary connection. After all, who more than Trotsky condemned the Stalinist political regime as being even more barbarous than Nazism, yet who more than Trotsky insisted on the Marxist class analysis that despite that political regime the social basis of the state on which it rested remained proletarian?

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