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The Revolution Betrayed #1: Introduction by David North

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David North, chairman of the editorial board of the World Socialist Web Site, wrote this introduction in December of 1990. A quick google of events in that year shows the Dow Jones hitting a new record at 2,800, Gen Noriega of Panama surrendering to US forces, China lifting the martial law imposed after Tienanmen Square, Romania banning the Communist Party, Soviet president Gorbachev sending troops into Azerbaijan to quell pro-independence demonstrations, a protest in Romania against the Illiescu government, and the first McDonalds opening in the Soviet Union—and that was just January.

By the time this introduction was written, Gorbachev would allow opposition parties, Germany would be reunified, the Soviet Union would withdraw troops from Czechoslovakia, Boris Yeltsin would resign from the Communist Party, White Russia and Bosnia-Herzegovina would declare independence, the U.S. would deploy troops to Saudi Arabia after provoking Saddam Hussein into attacking Kuwait, Lech Walesa would win a general election in Poland, the Dow Jones would set yet a new record high, and there would be the first test of what would become the World Wide Web.

The Soviet Union, in other words, was in the middle of disintegrating. North begins by comparing the prognosis in The Revolution Betrayed to that of academics and journalists. “Who among them predicted even after the accession of Gorbachev to power that the Soviet government would reject the principle of central planning, repeal all restrictions on private ownership of the means of production, proclaim the market to be the highest achievement of civilization, and seek the complete integration of the USSR into the economic and political structure of world capitalism?”

All of which happened within an incredibly short time—those of us who were around remember that it seemed practically every day there was another major chunk of what had been the USSR and the “Eastern Bloc” dissolving, to the unrestrained glee of the US stock market. (It is interesting to note, by the way, that when the stock market suddenly climbs, this means something good has happened for capitalism, which is almost inevitably bad for the working class. On the other hand, when the stock market suddenly dips, it means capitalism is facing a new crisis—which crisis will be taken out on the working class. But I digress).

Point being, The Revolution Betrayed predicted exactly this—that if the Russian and international working class could not find a way to remove the parasitic bureaucratic caste that was ruling the Soviet Union, the only alternative was capitalist restoration, accompanied by the harshest measures of repression and economic catastrophe. The years following 1990 bore this out, until today in Russia we have a government ruled by Putin, who is closer to a mafia Don than a political leader.

It is worth taking a moment to consider this prediction of Trotsky’s, because it stands in such sharp contrast to the prediction of the bourgeois academics and journalists. As a rule, they did indeed predict the fall of the Soviet government—in 1917.  The Soviet government was expected to last a few days, or maybe weeks. After the conclusion of the wars of intervention (1918-1922), their attitude, in general, was either that the Soviet system would remain in place forever, or that it could only be destroyed by external force, hence the fact that for its entire existence the Soviet Union was either engaged with or threatened by military forces of comparatively overwhelming power. This brings up the question of how it survived, which we’ll get into in the course of the book. For now, the point remains that Trotsky’s 1936 prognosis was verified by events.

How was he able to make this prognosis? North points out that this work was written in Norway in 1936, when Trotsky was all but isolated. He had at his disposal only newspapers, his books, and—his method. “What sets this book apart from all others written about the Soviet Union is the analytical method that its author employed.” This question of method is one we’ll be coming back to, not only in understanding the development of the Soviet Union, but in understanding developments in the world around us: how is it that we go about making sense of the development of an individual, a political tendency, a world-historic event. Much of the value of The Revolution Betrayed, in my opinion, lies in seeing it as an example of dialectical materialism in action, so as we go I expect to spend a fair bit of time on it. “Dialectical logic is not a form of clever argumentation employed by those who possess a talent for inventing brilliant, but contrived, paradoxes; it is, rather, the generalized expression in the domain of thought of the contradictions which lie at the base of all natural and social phenomena.”

Much of North’s introduction consists of a brief outline of Trotsky’s argument, which I’m not going to reproduce here. But in doing so, he is at times required to review history that, in Trotsky’s time, would have been fresh in everyone’s mind. This is from footnote 3: “That the choice confronting Russia in 1917 was between a proletarian revolution and a liberal democratic regime modeled on Britain, France, or the United States is a political fantasy. Had the Bolsheviks failed to seize power in October, the events of 1917 would have in all likelihood concluded with a successful replay of the counterrevolution which General Kornilov had attempted in August.” I will add that by counterrevolution, he means a restoration of the Romanov monarchy, or, at best, a brutal dictatorship that would have prostrated Russia before her imperialist “allies” leading to her existence as a colonial country not unlike India. “We might add that if Lenin and Trotsky had behaved in 1917 as ‘respectable’ social democrats, collaborated with the Provisional Government, cleared the way for Kornilov’s victory, and then perished in a fascist debacle, liberal historians today would no doubt write of them as sympathetically as they do of Salvador Allende.”

“Trotsky, living in Norway, completed the introduction of The Revolution Betrayed and sent the final portions of the manuscript to the publishers barely two weeks before the beginning of the trial of Zinoviev and Kamenev in Moscow…the Norwegian Social Democratic government, submitting to pressure from the Kremlin, demanded that Trotsky renounce the right to publicly comment on contemporary political events, ie, on the Moscow frame-up trial.” When he refused, he was arrested—all of which tells us a great deal about both Stalinism and the Social Democracy.

After a few months, Trotsky was deported based on the testimony of a fascist hoodlum who had failed to burglarize his apartment. Here, North quotes from Isaac Deutscher’s The Prophet Outcast: “Trotsky raised his voice so that it resounded through the halls and corridors of the Ministry: ‘This is your first act of surrender to Nazism in your own country. You will pay for this. You think yourselves secure and free to deal with a political exile as you please. But the day is near—remember this!—the day is near when the Nazis will drive you from your country, all of you together your Pantoffle-Minister-President.’ Trygve Lie shrugged at this odd piece of soothsaying. Yet after less than four years the same government had indeed to flee from Norway before the Nazi invasion….”

Let us now jump forward to 1990. “Today, the desperate crisis of the Stalinist regime has been seized upon by the bourgeoisie as final and conclusive proof that ‘socialism has failed.’ However, the value of these pronouncements may best be judged not by what they say as by what they leave out. It is virtually impossible to find in either the capitalist press or ‘respectable’ academic treatises any reference to the Trotskyist, ie, Marxist, critique of the Stalinist sabotage of the Soviet economy.”

I just want to take a moment to look at that: During the entire course of the existence of the Soviet Union, there was exactly one tendency, Trotskyism, that predicted what would happen, that anticipated essentially all of the problems—economic, political, and social—that caused the collapse, and this is the tendency that is never mentioned by those who gloat over the result. One of the things mentioned by Trotsky, and by North, is the “worship of the accomplished fact” divorced from all understanding of what produced this “fact” and the processes and movement it embodies. It seems that experience teaches these people nothing.

North goes on to discuss at some length the working out of the prognosis given in the book in the years immediately following its release—the Popular Front (“the alliance between the bourgeois democracy and the GPU”), the Stalin-Hitler pact that created such consternation among Leftists, and how confusion among socialists as to the class nature of the Soviet Union (confusion that still exists, and is largely why I’m writing these posts) led to disorientation, error, and outright betrayal within the workers movement (Pabloite revisionism, the Burnham and Schactman split, &c).

“Of all the services rendered by Stalinism to world imperialism, none is more important than its discrediting of socialism in the eyes of broad sections of the working class.”

In the quarter of a century since this introduction was written, this has been proven true over and over again. Yet, “the truth will out.” There really is no other way forward for the working class, for the oppressed, than socialism, and interest in socialism and Marxism, in spite of the predictions of cynics, has not only never died, but is now growing. There is the subjective element—the thinking of the individual—and the objective, the world crisis of capitalism. They are not independent; the former is always, however imperfectly, a reflection of the latter. The deeper the crisis and the greater the blows capital inflicts, the easier it becomes to bring our understanding closer to objective truth. We might miss the subtle, but it’s harder to miss the obvious. For the sake of illustration, speaking from bitter personal experience, it is possible to be unaware that one’s marriage is in trouble by denying to one’s self the meaning of the signs, clues, and remarks; but when one is told, “get out and don’t come back,” denial just can’t stand up. In the world today, to pick just one example out of many, for over 150 years Marxists have said that the police represent the armed might of the ruling class, and that their fundamental job is repression; how many more people understand that now, compared to even two years ago? However much the reactionary seethes and gnashes his teeth, however much the middle-class liberal tries to wriggle, the objective forces of capitalism are driving the masses toward revolution. And yet, if the history of the last hundred years has taught us nothing else, let it teach us this: the revolutionary will of the masses, however determined and self-sacrificing, is insufficient to overthrow capital without theoretical knowledge—knowledge that is exactly the job of the revolutionary party. The Revolution Betrayed was not an empty, academic work; it was the precursor to and an important part of the next stage of the struggle: the founding of the Fourth International.

“The two great lies of the post-World War II era—that Stalinism represents socialism and that capitalism, at least in its metropolitan centers, is compatible with peace and democracy—are being shattered by the force of events. Neither the pragmatic bourgeois nostrums broadcast by the mass media nor the insipid existential fatalism cultivated in the universities are capable of satisfying the demands of the working masses for a way out of the social catastrophe to which capitalism is leading.”

The working class must be armed politically before being armed with rifles. That it must and will arm itself with rifles is, in my opinion, a foregone conclusion, and not something anyone has any control over. The political arming is something we can do something about. With that in mind, let’s proceed to the book itself.

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skzb

Author: skzb

I play the drum.

31 Comments

  1. Exactly the sort of meaty post I was hoping this discussion would be. The only real question that I was left with was the conclusion that, because Trotsky successfully predicted events, that his reasoning and analysis was sound. Correct predictions can also arrive through convergent evolution, as it were, and gain the force of prophecy even if they don’t have any future predictive power. But since the actual content of his reasoning and analysis is being left until later, so will the answer to this question, presumably. Thanks for the educational read!

  2. Maestro, have you ever taught? Because you are really good at it!

  3. skzb

    You are very kind. (In fact, I do teach at a writers workshop every year.)

  4. “… comparing the prognosis in The Revolution Betrayed to that of academics and journalists. “Who among them predicted even after the accession of Gorbachev to power that the Soviet government would reject the principle of central planning, repeal all restrictions on private ownership of the means of production, proclaim the market to be the highest achievement of civilization, and seek the complete integration of the USSR into the economic and political structure of world capitalism?””

    I wondered about this at the time. They did not come up with an improved idea. They did not come up with any alternative that particularly sprang from Russian roots. Instead they chose the exact thing they had been fighting for their whole existence. To me this does not look like a revolution but a defeat.

    As if the leaders of the American Confederacy had announced along with their surrender that the only thing that matters is employer-employee interactions paid by money, and personal honor has no meaning.

    Repeating back what they think the victorious enemy wants to hear, with no regard to where their own thinking would lead them.

    US Republicans have claimed that Reagan won the cold war. He put so much money into nuclear missiles that could precisely hit the Soviet second-strike forces, and Star Wars shield to prevent the remnants of a second strike from hitting back, that they gave up. Could they have somehow been right? Could Reagan/Bush governments have threatened them with nuclear destruction unless they tore down their economic system, and they did it?

    If so, I would probably not consider this vindication of Trotsky’s predictions. Not a denial of them, either. It would just be one of those damn things that’s really hard to predict.

    “Had the Bolsheviks failed to seize power in October, the events of 1917 would have in all likelihood concluded with a successful replay of the counterrevolution which General Kornilov had attempted in August.” I will add that by counterrevolution, he means a restoration of the Romanov monarchy, or, at best, a brutal dictatorship that would have prostrated Russia before her imperialist “allies” leading to her existence as a colonial country not unlike India.”

    It’s always hard to be sure how things would inevitably have had to go if they had been different.

    Consider as an alternative the Chinese revolution. By the 1880s it was obvious that China was not adopting new technolgy very quickly. In 1895 they lost a war with Japan which showed they had to do something different. Either reform the current government or revolt. They tried to revolt and it failed utterly. Sun Yat Sen escaped to Japan. They tried reform and that failed too.

    In 1900 they tried another revolt, this time they tried to get the chinese mobsters to help. It failed.

    In 1907 four revolts failed, in 1908 two more. Each time more revolutionaries were killed.

    In 1911 due to a comical series of mistakes and accidents, revolutionaries had no choice but to try again and part of the army revolted with them. They fought off the army units sent to destroy them, and various provinces declared for them. Sun Yat Sen came to China from the USA where he had been raising money for the revolution, and had a big part in setting up the new government. But nobody in particular was in charge of the military, so each general who could get funding was a power in his own right. Sun was popular, but he didn’t know how to convert popularity into armies. The revolution was a success but China died. The various military governments were more interested in maneuvering against each other than in improving technology, and the attempts to give land to peasants (which might get them more productive even without the tech) mostly failed. When the Japanese invaded China couldn’t feed itself or defend itself, and none of the military governments had enough support to win. Their armies could fight each other, but they couldn’t stand against people who were fighting for food for their families.

    China had many revolts until one of them won. The chinese government had problems it could not solve, and could not really maintain itself no matter how many revolts it put down.

    Imagine for a moment that the Whites had won in Russia. I don’t think they could have solved their problems. Could they declare an end to the war? Probably not, and so they must fail. Could they solve the other problems? Land reform etc? No. They could hold on awhile longer, but they could not really win. They could make it real rough for important Bolshevik organizers, of course. But those were easily replaceable.

    Part of the problem was that the Communists were not really ready to take over. They thought they had to anyway, because they could not wait. If they had waited, could they have been more ready the next time? Admit that maybe it was possible.

  5. skzb, thanks for the “synopsis.” Looks like I’m your straight man.

    For any workers movement to be successful, it needs to be inclusive (as you said) of as many types of workers as possible. If you can get the support of 50% of the population, you can win a non-violent revolution.

    One anomaly that needs to be addressed if you wish to be successful, is the Tea Party workers. They have been convinced that their economic problems (silly as it seems) are do to socialists, liberals and minorities. The majority of the TP are generally at the bottom of the economic and social pile. They should be ideal candidates for reform / revolution. But they are in lock-step with the Koch brothers and their like. If they are not converted, they will take up arms against other workers.

    I would add that if you want your “revolution” to have popular support, drop the Lennon, Trotsky, etc. terminology. You understand what terms like “dielectric materialism” and “proletariat” mean. But they are absolute turn-offs to the general population. You need to invent new terms and concepts that fit in with today. Use modern words. Yeah, you hate that suggestion. But you need to do it to succeed.

    J Thomas, you raise some very good points. One of which is letting socialist ideology get in the way of success.

  6. With regard to 1917, in some ways the West helped destroy the Social Democratic tendency by insisting that Russia remain in the War. On the other hand, a leader who tried to disengage from the War would have faced reaction from the Army.* Would that reaction have been stronger or more successful under those circumstances than it was in our timeline? Who knows? Either way, the Social Democrats were doomed. The third alternative, besides right wing resurgence and radical left revolution, was probably fragmentation into smaller states, possibly with partial annexation or protectorate by Germany (if they had won the larger war.)

    France, at least, received instant karma. Its large rentier class was extremely dependent on investment in Russia. That particular class enemy was quite heavily clobbered by the eventual success of the October Revolution.

    *It begs the ironic scenario of the Whites abandoning the War and/or making a separate peace in order to deal with the scoundrels who had proposed abandoning the war or making a separate peace.

  7. skzb

    “On the other hand, a leader who tried to disengage from the War would have faced reaction from the Army.* ” I assume you mean the highest ranks of officer? Because the enlisted man, the noncom, and even many of the lower officer ranks were done with it even before Kerensky’s offensive, which succeeded in finishing off the army in any practical sense.

  8. The Russian revolution was very complicated during WWI (and later WWII). I don’t see the US as having similar issues to deal with except maybe the “perpetual war” cabal and our blind support of whatever Israel wants cabal and the political right Christian cabal. We need to recruit support from the military and turn around the Tea Party.

    If I were to map out a workers revolution, I would list out all of the various factions that work together while keeping the workers down and “in their place.” Then figure out their motivation and a strategy that addresses each of them to get their support. It might even be possible to get some acceptance from the wealthy as they want to avoid the pitchforks.

  9. “If you can get the support of 50% of the population, you can win a non-violent revolution.”

    Provided the other 50% is willing. “No war is over until the enemy says it’s over. We may think it over, we may declare it over, but in fact, the enemy gets a vote.”

    If you can declare a revolution when you have 1%, or 10%, you might get clobbered. But they cannot declare peace with you, they have to actually clobber you and then declare peace after you can no longer resist.

    And when you have 90% or 99%, the enemy can still fight if they choose. It might be incredibly stupid for them to do that, but we don’t have ways to keep people from being incredibly stupid.

  10. I was using “Army” loosely. Basically, yes the nobs. If the Army had more coherence or loyalty to a particular politics, the right wing might have won and/or Russia might have managed to get all the way through WWI. And if the nation was in better shape, economically and politically, it might have had such an Army. And so on, all down the line of related causes.

    To get one slice of the chaos of the Revolution/Civil War period: in the run up to the Polish-Soviet War, Warsaw had no effective means of communicating with Moscow because of the state of the intervening infrastructure. Also the Poles did not know if they were “allowed” to talk to the Soviets (by the West.) When the war broke out Poland technically did not have an Army, just lots of well meaning bands of “volunteers” doing Bog knows what off their own bat. It’s the sad irony of modern history, that by the next year these two chaotic states did manage to organize the largest horse battle in world history. We can always find the resources for that somehow.

    As a general note I would also say that we often underestimate chaos because records and historians have a hard time capturing a lack of order. Whatever can be described and ordered becomes the narrative by default. Anything that cannot vanishes.

  11. “Let’s say I will rip your life apart. Me and my banker friends.
    How can he explain that to him? The world is not run from where he thinks. Not from border fortresses, not even from Whitehall. The world is run from Antwerp, from Florence, from places he has never imagined; from Lisbon, from where the ships with sails of silk drift west and are burned up in the sun. Not from the castle walls, but from counting houses, not by the call of the bugle, but by the click of the abacus, not by the grate and click of the mechanism of the gun but by the scrape of the pen on the page of the promissory note that pays for the gun and the gunsmith and the powder and shot.”

    Hilary Mantel, Wolf Hall, describing the end of feudalism three generations before the English Civil War.

    Personally, I believe there is no such thing as a successful revolution, only unsuccessful counter-revolutions. If the underlying structure of society hasn’t already changed enough to determine the outcome of a war by the time the shooting starts, you have as good as lost. And if by some fluke of luck or skill you do pull off a win, that changes little. The underlying structural factors are the same, so you and your buddies merely become drop-in replacements for the previous ruling class.

  12. Iceland did a successful revolution against the bankers. At least it looks like that. It is harder to do with a large and diverse population like in the US. But something to keep in mind. One more faction to have to deal with. Them being hidden from view makes it all the harder.

  13. The question I have always had about the workers’ revolution, and hope can be addressed, is this: once the revolution is successful, what keeps a new ruling class from arising and the workers finding themselves in the same situation again? Humans, like other social animals, are hard-wired to seek social status. How is that impulse channeled so that the state doesn’t end up enforcing the will of the monied again? How are sociopaths prevented from coming to power and sweet-talking the rest of us into letting them have all the toys?

  14. Falco, excellent question. Unfortunately, what you describe seems to be the norm regardless of the name of the politics. The US had a good plan by dividing up the power into executive, legislative and judicial branches. It wasn’t perfect, but it has become corrupted to a large extent now.

    Could it be fixed? I think so. Limit Supreme Court judges to a single 6 (or 4) year term and require them to meet all the ethical requirements of every other judge. Limit Senators to a single term (or 2 at most). Limit Representatives to 6 years. Maybe limit Presidents to a single term. Close the revolving door where retired politicians become lobbyists. Limit corporations to contributing no more than $2500 to a single campaign or PAC and to $10,000 total contributions for a year. Limit speaking fees to $2500 plus travel expenses.

    That would eliminate the vast majority of political corruption which is all about money, after all. Too many people go into politics with the goal of becoming entrenched, selling influence and then get rich.

  15. skzb

    Falco: That is one of the things I hope to address in this series of blog posts. If I’ve failed to answer it by the end, please feel free to bring it up again.

  16. > Iceland did a successful revolution against the bankers.

    Hardly. They held a scheduled election which elected a government with different policies. If that counts as a revolution, then the word means nothing.

    The thing is, in another country with different political and economic structure, the same policy might well have resulted in a counter-revolution. The bankers would have talked to the generals (or perhaps colonels), who would arrange some riots, then step in to restore order, etc.

    That didn’t and couldn’t happen in Iceland because it has the political and economic structure it does (I don’t think it even has colonels, let alone generals). So any such attempt would fail. It would be an unsuccessful counter-revolution.

    And that not being a in any way in doubt, it was actually obvious enough to everyone that is how it would turn out that there was no attempt to try.

    The only sign of progress more significant than a failed counter-revolution is one so obviously doomed it never starts…

  17. 1soru1:It seems to me that elections can be a form of revolution. It is a peaceful means that can be used to change the incumbent government in quite a drastic fashion. We’re somewhat jaded at this end of the history of voting but peacefully exchanging governments was a fairly radical idea.

  18. “It seems to me that elections can be a form of revolution.”

    Yes. If the side that will lose is willing to surrender to an election, then you can have a peaceful transition.

    But if they think they have nothing to gain from a peaceful surrender, then they are more likely to fight.

    If surrender means they lose all their power and status, and watch their families be killed or enslaved, what do they have to lose by fighting?

    And if you promise them something better than a violent death, and then they give up their power, what can they do if you change your mind? If it’s a revolution, there’s likely to be no one who can make credible promises. You only represent the people who agree with you. Make too sweet a deal with the old guard and you could be replaced for it, if you actually had the right to make a deal at all.

    I think this is related to Obama’s treatment of the GOP. He could presumably have gotten Cheney, and maybe Bush, and certainly a lot of their minions jailed for crimes and international war crimes and such. But then the next time we had a GOP president he would pardon all the ones in US prisons, and then work tirelessly to find excuses to jail Obama, Clinton, and Carter along with their surviving staff.

    After Nixon was impeached for the Watergate peccadillo, the GOP spent 8 years trying to impeach Clinton. They would have tried harder to impeach Obama if he’d actually tried to do something.

    It isn’t possible in the short run to destroy the GOP, and without that they will do their best to hit back harder every time they get hit.

  19. Yes, the election process has to exist within a framework of laws that all parties accept. Once one side starts killing another, all bets are off and we don’t really have a democracy. That seems to be a common sticking point in many of these cases where “bootstrapping” democracies doesn’t work out.

  20. skzb

    May I point out that Democracy is always introduced into a society by non-democratic means?

  21. “May I point out that Democracy is always introduced into a society by non-democratic means?”

    If you don’t have democratic institutions, you can’t use democratic institutions to start themselves.

    But it can be started other ways. The Magna Carta started out as an agreement between a king and 25 rebel barons, and nobody else. Possibly it was gradually expanded into something more democratic….

    Votes by people who actually count, provide a rough estimate of who would win if they fought. As long as people are ready to accept the rough estimate rather than actually putting it to the test, they can run something that’s kind of like a democracy. Every now and then they might not settle for the approximation and actually go out and fight. People who would rather not fight have an incentive to give the minority enough of what they want to settle. Sometimes that incentive is just not big enough.

    Universal rights can still fit that model provided that too many powerless people don’t all join one side.

    There’s nothing wrong with letting the guys who’d win the fight win without a fight, as long as the losers agree to it. And there’s nothing wrong with votes as a proxy for fighting so long as nobody gets so upset they’d rather fight.

  22. “May I point out that Democracy is always introduced into a society by non-democratic means?”

    That may have been true for a long time, but I suspect it was introduced like this.

    Og: Let’s look for grasshoppers and seeds on the plain.

    Ig: No, let’s look for snails and tubers down by the creek.

    Ug: Yeah, down by the creek.

    Og: Okay, it’s lots to one. I’ll go to the creek with you.

  23. Skzb: Good point. The first step from tyranny to democracy must take place by the relinquishing of power from the tyranny to the democracy. That step may be taken either mostly voluntarily/peacefully (for example the Velvet Revolution) or in peacefully (the American Revolution).

  24. skzb

    Jerry Friedman: That is not democracy in any meaningful sense of the word.

  25. I just saw a *great* quote on the random quotes spot above. I have to change it a little bit.

    The [fill in the blank] intellectuals are introspective by nature. They mistake their own emotions, their uncertainties, their fears and their own egoistic concern about their personal fate for the sentiments and movements of the great masses. They measure the world’s agony by their own inconsequential aches and pains.

    In the original the blank was filled in with “petty-bourgeois”. But I think it generalizes to almost any group of intellectuals we can come up with.

  26. SKZB: “That is not democracy in any meaningful sense of the word.”

    If you like, but it’s easy to see how primitive bands where people had such habits could develop democracy democratically. I don’t know whether that happened in prehistory, and I doubt anyone does.

  27. skzb

    Jerry: There are *some* things we know about primitive society. For example, there was no State in the sense we use the term today. And any definition of “democracy” that does not include the State is not useful for understanding how to move forward in today’s society. This does not mean we cannot learn useful things from primitive societies–we certainly can. But using terms with at least a certain minimal amount of precision is necessary for any intelligent conversation, yes?

  28. J Thomas, your quote about transferring your motives on others is interesting. Unfortunately, it is just human nature to do this. The Tea Party is not full of intellectuals, yet they project their motives as being more universal and important than they are. For that matter, they are proles not petty-bourgeois.

    We get wrapped around the axle when we try to use 100 year old politics to try to understand things today.

  29. Yeah, I’m not sure what the point of speculating about unknown primitive conditions might be. So far as I know the first documented implementation of anything resembling democracy by a full national state was in the 20th century when suffrage was introduced in the US and the UK. And that’s of course only a semblance. There may have been brief expressions of widespread voting in places like the Paris commune, but if they existed those were quickly extinguished.

    Also, to David, all the tea party leadership is certainly bourgeois according to any reasonable sense of the word. It’s virtually impossible to be a proletarian politician in the US at any level above the local — and even then it’s extremely unlikely. By the time he was elected Lincoln was no doubt in the bourgeois class.

  30. Miramon, yes the leaders (sponsors?) of the Tea Party are bourgeois, even elite. And the Tea Party has accepted those leaders values. But the rank and file are mostly poor southern whites.

    People like Trotsky and Lenin were bourgeois intellectuals. So by that standard, the revolutionary people were bourgeois. ;>)

  31. SKZB: Thanks, I didn’t realize you were restricting your definitions that way. But I seem to be arguing with you about something else now.

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