Tuesday, 22 May 2012

AWL Stalinism, Once More - Part 8

Opportunism & Adventurism

Lions Led By Donkeys
This approach, described in Part 7, which combines delusion with adventurism, and ultra-leftism, with the most crass opportunism, in a thoroughly rancid cocktail, is also typical of Stalinism, and can be seen elsewhere in the AWL's politics. For example, the AWL, an organisation with less than 100 members, have launched, with tiny forces, adventurist assaults on fascists at EDL demonstrations. It is not just typical studentist politics, but is clearly a part of an attempt to obtain publicity for themselves by such actions. But, having placed themselves, and anyone foolish enough to follow them, in such adventures, in danger of getting their heads kicked in, the AWL are quick to use the consequences of such tactics to justify their Opportunist politics elsewhere. They argue that, having placed themselves in such a position, then, of course, why would they demand that the Capitalist State police refrain from protecting them. Having done so, they then use this argument to justify similar adventurism in Libya, on the basis that “never mind Imperialism can come to the rescue!” According to the AWL, the rebel forces in Libya, they allied themselves with, amounted to no more than about 13,000. That is about 0.3% of the population, or about the same amount of support that the sects obtain in UK elections. It is no wonder then that they failed to make any progress, and were reduced to being merely a cover for the Imperialists, who destroyed Libya with their massive bombing campaign, and with the thousands of Special Forces troops, which they and their allies from the Feudal Sunni Monarchies in the Gulf sent in.

Marx warned the Paris Workers in 1870
against a premature rebellion
This is a million miles away from the tactical approach of Lenin and Trotsky, or of Marx who advised the Paris Workers in 1870 against coming out in revolt. It is not the politics and tactics of Lenin who had to minimise the damage of adventurism by Russian workers in the July days of 1917, or of Trotsky who repeatedly warned against the adventurist tactics of the German Stalinists in calling out the workers for General Strikes that were doomed to fail. One of the main responsibilities of Marxists is to help the workers learn the mistakes of the past so as not to repeat them, and that includes the lessons of adventurism. These great Marxist thinkers frequently refer to the fact of War being the continuation of politics by other means, and refer back to the military thinkers such as Clausewitz. They could as easily refer to Sun Tzu, who wrote in the “Art Of War”,

“Thus it is that in war the victorious strategist only seeks battle after the victory has been won..”

For all their talk about working class action it is the last thing on the AWL's mind, which is why they oppose demands for such independent working-class action, whether it is for workers to take over the means of production and establish Co-ops, or to struggle to kick out the Imperialist Occupation in Iraq, or to mobilise an international working-class force to intervene on behalf of workers against atrocities in the Balkans, in Libya, in Syria, and elsewhere. Instead, in all these instances they tell the workers to rely on the Capitalist State. I came across a good description of it recently, provided by John Lovering in Capital & Class 42. Lovering was discussing “New Realism”, a concept which itself emanated from the petit-bourgeois circles of Stalinist intellectuals around Marxism Today during the late 1980's. He writes,

“New Realists cannot conceive of socialism as other than a reformed version of what we are used to. It can only think of politics in terms of 'policy'; to be delivered by governments which resemble the Starship Enterprise, beaming-in when required to redistribute resources and right wrongs.”

That is exactly the AWL approach. Working-class politics reduced to nothing more than militant Trade Unionism at the level of the workplace (Economism), demands for Redistributive Socialism (Fabianism) at the level of the State, and what Marx called “a democratic belief in miracles” in its demands for the Capitalist State to act on behalf of the workers (Lassalleanism). And, of course, this view extends to its view of that same Capitalist State “beaming-in” to Iraq, or Libya, or wherever to fulfil the same functions. In other words the AWL are content to remain secure in the bosom of the Capitalist State. Unfortunately for them, it has no desire to suckle this Socialist child, which it sees more in the role of Damien than the Son of God.

Ultimately, their view of Socialism, in so far as they have not given up on it entirely, relies on a revolution from above, carried through by an elitist vanguard party. And like every other sect they see themselves as the embryo of this Party, and everything else is subordinated, therefore, to the goal of “Building The Party”, of recruiting to their own organisation ready for this great day. They are not bothered whether their policies provide any actual solutions for workers in the near term because their goal is only to build the Party. In other words true sectarianism, putting their own narrow interests above that of the class. The problem for the AWL, more than any of the other sects is that in the more than 40 years of its existence, it has succeeded in going absolutely nowhere in adding to its numbers. Certainly, it has no hope, even if it had the desire, of attracting workers to its banner – in the last General Election, it secured just 75 votes!!!!  With results as abysmal as that you should question not just your politics, but your interpersonal skills, and maybe even your deodorant! It would be a bad result even for the real Monster Raving Loonies.  The AWL can only survive, because it manages to just about recruit enough young, impressionable students each year to replenish those it has worn out, or who have found themselves a nice middle class job.

An excellent analysis of this kind of Statist Socialism was provided more than 20 years ago by Simon Clarke in an article “Crisis of Socialism Or Crisis Of the State?”, in Capital & Class 42, Winter 1990. He writes,

“The social base of state socialism lies in the stratum of intellectual workers, including such groups as managers, administrators, scientists, technicians, engineers, social workers and teachers as well as the intelligentsia more narrowly defined.” These groups believe that the key to a more just society lies “in their mobilisation of their technical, administrative and intellectual expertise... The ability of this stratum to achieve its rationalist ambitions depends on its having access to positions of social and political power.”

“For the working-class the Party is a means of mobilising and generalising its opposition to Capital and its State, and of building autonomous forms of collective organisation, while for the intellectual stratum it is a means of achieving power over capital and the state... As soon as the party has secured state power, by whatever means, it has fulfilled its positive role as far as the intellectual stratum is concerned. The latter's task is now to consolidate and exploit its position of power to secure the implementation of the Party's programme in the interests of the 'working class'. Once the Party has seized power, any opposition it encounters from the working class is immediately identified as sectional or factional opposition to the interests of the working class as a whole, the latter being identified with the Party as its self-conscious representative.”

Clarke echoes the view expressed by Draper saying,

“The distinction between the Bolshevik and social democratic variants of state socialism should not be ignored, but it is more a matter of degree than of substance. The 'degeneration' of the Russian Revolution was not a matter of Lenin's intolerance, nor of Trotsky's militarism, nor of Stalin's personality, nor of the economic backwardness nor of the relatively small size of the Russian working class, nor of the autocratic character of the Russian State, nor of the embattled position of the revolutionary regime, although all these factors played their part in determining the extent of the degeneration. The degeneration was already inherent in the class character of the revolution which underlay the statist conception of socialism which it adopted as its project.”

Guesde - Revolutionary Phrasemonger
That can be witnessed in the other odd aspect of the AWL position. In raising the demand for nation-alisation, the question is who will implement it? After all, they admit that, in respect of Vestas, Ed Miliband showed no inclination to do so. In that case, even the AWL must recognise that there is even less chance of persuading Cameron to implement such a policy! So, if its known that no existing parties have any intention of implementing this policy, and given that there is even less indication of the AWL's even more ludicrous demand for a “Workers' Government” having any basis in reality, it is clear that the demand is pissing in the wind. So, what is the real purpose of raising it? In fact, it is raised for purely sectarian reasons again. The AWL know there is no chance of it being implemented, but they see it as merely a means of posturing in front of workers, in the hope of winning the odd one to their sect. It is what Marx called “Revolutionary Phrasemongering” when this method was adopted by Guesde and the French Socialists.

“After the programme was agreed, however, a clash between Marx and his French supporters arose over the purpose of the minimum section. Whereas Marx saw this as a practical means of agitation around demands that were achievable within the framework of capitalism, Guesde took a very different view: “Discounting the possibility of obtaining these reforms from the bourgeoisie, Guesde regarded them not as a practical programme of struggle, but simply ... as bait with which to lure the workers from Radicalism.” The rejection of these reforms would, Guesde believed, “free the proletariat of its last reformist illusions and convince it of the impossibility of avoiding a workers ’89.” Accusing Guesde and Lafargue of “revolutionary phrase-mongering” and of denying the value of reformist struggles, Marx made his famous remark that, if their politics represented Marxism, “ce qu'il y a de certain c'est que moi, je ne suis pas Marxiste” (“what is certain is that I myself am not a Marxist”)”

Programme of the French Socialists

Back To Part 7
Forward To Part 9

1 comment:

Jacob Richter said...

Posturing "in front of the workers" may be good or bad, depending on the posturing. The "workers government" slogan isn't really the kind of substantive public policy worthy of pulling off a Guesde.

After our past discussions, I am of the opinion you should write "poor man's Guesde" or something. His "revolutionary phrasemongering" consisted of more substantive public policy than typical Trotskyist sloganeering.