Planning; or marx versus lenin versus lenin

rc-am rcollins at
Tue Aug 31 20:35:04 PDT 1999

Chaz wrote:

> What is Marx's version of the relation between the party and the
masses, according to you ? To feed back to the masses in words what they are doing spontaneously ? Why was a party or Marx needed for that ? or at all ?<

marx's version of the party is contained in the passages i cited from the _communist manifesto_ in the previous post. to reiterate: in the _communist manifesto_ M&E write: "the communists do not form a separate party opposed to other working class parties. They have no interests separate and apart from those of the proletariat as a whole. They do not set up any sectarian principles of their own by which to shape and mould the proletarian movement." they then go on to make two distinctions between communists and other working class parties: communists are not nationalists but proletarian internationalists; they represent the interests of the movement as a whole (ie., they keep their eye on the potentiality of communism and not on immediate demands within capitalism).

the issue of proletarian internationalism is well known, though often enough forgotten. but i suspect what you're looking for, as a definition of the difference b/n party and masses is contained in the last line: that of the difference between actuality and potentiality. and here, rather than seeing actuality as the realisation of potentiality, and hence as either no difference at all or rather an inevitability of the unfolding of an essence, marx consistently borrows the definition of potentiality given by Aristotle: that potential is the power to not become actuality. hence, what defines the paths to communism is not the identity of the working class, but the decisive power (decisive because the life of capital depends on it) of the working class to refuse to be workers. this is why working class struggle is decisive in abolishing capitalims, and why communism is defined as the abolition of the working class as a class.

>What is the significance of this "going over" ? Do those who go over to
the workers' side have a special role, bring something ? or do they just become a tiny few more workers, like everybody else ? How come Engels and Marx , who went over, had such a unique role in the revolutionary workers' party, introducing _The Manifesto of the Communist Party_ into the party and all ? Wasn't that a specialized role that the average worker in the movement was not doing ?<

first, what petty bourgeois intellectuals bring to the class struggle can be many things, but it is not what is decisive to the course of that struggle. the writing of the _manifesto_ was not decisive for the expansion of communist politics, but certain significant events in the class struggle were. that they were at some point referenced to marx is undeniable, but it was not as if the _manifesto_ caused those events. the russian workers' council took their inspiration from the paris commune. but on the specialisation of intellectuals, i can see no reason to hold with this, especially inasmuch as the distinction between intellectual and manual labour has been well traversed, as i noted with reference to marx's discussion of real subsumption. the very notion of intellectuals as a separate class only makes sense if you regard the working class as bereft of its own knowledge. whether this is true or false consciousness matters is beside the point, and no party or intellectual is able to adjudicate on this, since the ability to judge assumes being outside ideology. an assumption indeed that lenin makes when he talks of intellectuals as developing autonomously in _wtbd_.

> You misrepresent Lenin's _witbd_. There he says that the party is part
of the working class. In Lenin's theory, the party is a speicalized part of the working class: its most conscious element. Lenin does not say that the intellectuals import socialism to the working class, rather that the party intellectuals bring socialist consciousness to the working class. The working class as a whole is the only force capable of making socialism. It has to have consciousness of Marx's theory to do that.<

yes, the working class is the only force capable of making socialism. i agree. but the difference you claim between "impart" and "import" only makes sense depending on whether intellectuals are positioned as part of of separate from the class. in _wtbd_, lenin distinctly says that intellectuals are not workers, not part of the class (see below).

> The antagonism between predominantly physical and predominantly mental
labor is an ancient one. The Marxist revolution claims to resolve it along with its analogous class antagonisms. So, Marxists make the distinction with the purpose of abolishing it by exactly raising mass consciousness or participation in mental labor.<

not so. in _capital_ (throughout) marx writes both of the specific emergence and role of intellectual *labour* as first, the adjunct of science to the mode of production and reproduction, and second, that this passes from an adjunct to itself becoming a branch of production -- and he clearly sets these changes as internal to capitalist developments. we have already seen those changes by and large. the abolition of the distinction does not come about by rising consciousness (or even by teh expansion of a marxist consciousness) but by changes in the mode of production.

> _The State and Rev_ is sort of a peptalk for the insurrection,
dispelling superstitious respect and fear of the authority of the state, saying it is ok for THE MASSES (not the Party by itself) to throw the rascals out, and even use violent means which are probably necessary because the essence of the state is organized violence protecting private property against the working class and masses and because of the experience of the Paris Commune. <

yes, it's an excellent work isn't it? but saying both _wtbd_ and _state and revolution_ discuss the party is not any way to answer the question of whether they discuss it in the same way.

>> Angela: if lenin was correct in _wtbd_ about the inability of
workers to spontaneously create revolutionary forms for struggle, then there would have been no revolutionary workers' councils. <<

> Charles: This is a mistatement of Lenin's position in _witbd_. It is
not that workers cannot spontaneously create revolutionary forms such as the Commune or the soviets. It is that they will not spontaneously develop socialist consciousness. The latter is consciousness of the need to abolish private property.<

an interesting distinction between revolutionary forms and revolutionary consciousness. but i never thought it was consciousness which is decisive in these matters. isn't that exactly the meaning of idealism, to make consciousness the deciding factor in the constitution of the world?

> The Paris Commune and soviets did not have the full consciousness of
the full transformation of the mode of production. In August before the Commune, Marx told the Paris workers that any effort to overthrow the government at the time would be a folly of despair. However, once they plunged into it, he supported them fully. Marxism recognizes that experience, trial and error, teahes, but the purpose of theory is to learn by other than hardknocks.<

and isn't this 'trial and error' contained in class struggle and not outside of it?

> One reason Marx knew the Paris Commune would be a folly of despair was
that it was not sufficiently conscious, i.e. it didn't have a communist part leading it, more fully conscious of what had to be done to eally overthrow the bourgeoisie.<

where does marx ever say the problem with the paris commune was the absence of communist leadership?

>> Angela: the principal target of _what is to be done_ is the (as it
was characterised) 'spontaneism' of the rest of the russian left, including other factions in the russian soc dems, not bernstein. <<

> Charles: Page 62 , International edition 1969 of _witbd_: " Are we
slandering the Robecheye calling them concealed Bernsteinians... "<

it was a slander, no more. and this because lenin had a penchant for kautsky's positions in contrast to those of bernstein in the International. but _wtbd_ is not at all focussed on bernstein, but the political groupings within russia.

> The party impart socialist consciousness to the proletariat as a
whole. It does not reserve it for itself. It is slander in the extreme to claim that Lenin argues in this book or anywhere that the party and intellectuals make history. <

this is no slander but a direct paraphrase from _wtbd_: "The history of all countries shows that the working class, *exclusively by its own effort* is able to develop *only* trade-union consciousness... The Theory of Socialism, however, grew out of the philosophic, historical, and economic theories elaborated by *educated representatives of the propertied classes, by intellectuals*... in Russia, the theoretical doctrine of Social Democracy arose *altogether independantly* of the spontaneous growth of the working class movement; it arose as a *natural and inevitable outcome of the development of thought* amongst the revolutionary socialist intelligentsia" (my emphases).

> Your repeated theme that Lenin somehow peridoically becomes lucid for
brief spurts just enough to get everybody to think he is an acute analyst of the situations of this period in Russian history defies common sense.<

not at all. it is merely a restatement of the argument made by marx and engels that the pressures of extreme class struggle on the whole of society force changes in the 'intellectual climate' and the alliances of intellectuals, as they did with lenin and his decision to enter the councils and accord them a priveliged status in the constitution of the revolution, for a short time. that is, he takes on the position he previously denounced as the 'spontaneism' of the Self-Emancipation faction.

> This and the above do not answer my questions. Why does the class
struggle "make" this marxism occur to Marx and not just directly to the working masses ? What is this "marxism" that he working class struggle makes ? Does the class struggle make this Marxism "in the whole working class" spontaneously ? <

because as an intellectual, marx does what he does best, he reads. but how he reads is less much founded on what he has already read (eg, spinoza) than on the explosions taking place around him. and working class struggle makes many things, even an inestimable number of variations on what we might call marxism, even though marx is not the author of those, let alone the author of revolutions. class struggle also makes many horrible things. the designation 'spontaneous' was not mine, but one which lenin adopted in his polemic, and hardly characterises the position of the Self -Emancipation faction accurately. without the paris commune, what we call marxism now would have looked very different, without the paris commune, the russian workers would not have been inspired to establish the councils.

> Your position is mechanical materialism , the infamous "vulgar"
materialism (!). This is exactly the economism that Lenin argued against in _witbd_. The Russian economists argued for trade unionism pure and simple, confining the workers to economic, shop floor, point of production struggles only. Lenin argued against this that the working class had to be involved in politics as well as economics, because pure economic struggle would not spontaneously create socialist consciousness. <

leaving aside your claim that i'm being 'economistic', which i wasn't, the russian economists might have been doing many things, including arguing for trade unionism, but what is important is that the councils themselves never adopted this distinction between economics and politics, that marx regarded the chartists and the communards as already both an economic and political movement, and that engels likewise in the _history of the english working class_ traces the movement's political/economic character. it is lenin who polemicises against the russian economists by advancing a theoretical premise (that the working class only develop trade union consciousness), which means to a large extent he agrees with the economists and merely sets up the party of "ten wise men" as providing the poltical element.

>This is a misrepresentation of Lenin's position in these books. Lenin's
position is that the Party should be the most conscious part of the working class as a whole.<

no, he says in _wtbd_ that the party consists of intellectuals, defined as "the educated representatives of the propertied classes" who develop their socialist consciousness independant of the working class. how can you now be reading this? as for the party, it consists of "ten wise men". the insurrectionary moment of the russian revolution was triggered by the rise of the most exploited section of the working class, the textile workers, and there is no evidence at all that there were bolsheviks amongst the textile workers. if you have any, i'd like to see it, seriously.

> As to your last parenthetical commentary, Marx and Engels mean the
Communists keep their eyes on BOTH. Marx and Engels do NOTsay that Communists do not pay attention to immediate demands within capitalism. They say that Communists are unique in that they keep their eyes not only on the immediate and local demands but the larger picture. <

yes, you are right. i neglected the both. an important clarification.

> In another essay on the party, Lenin says the goal should be to have a
ratio of about 20 to one workers-revolutionaries to intellectual revolutionaries.<

so he still makes the distinction between workers and intellectuals? which essay?

> If they [the bolshies] had [entered the councils early on], you and
the other anti-Leninists would be charging them with trying to take them over.<

heh heh. perhaps :-) but that's not what happened is it? what happened is that by virtue of lenin's early position, the councils were ruled out as revolutionary. after the bolsheviks involvement (up to 1919), there is no question of accusing anyone of a 'take-over' precisely because lenin subordinated the party to the councils. i don't doubt the sincerity of this position at all. nor do i doubt that he would have been unable to become a leader in the movement had he not taken that position. what happens after 1919 is not down to lenin, but his response is, and his response was a reversion to the theses of _wtbd_.

>You try to make it sound as if they opposed the soviets before this.<

i never said such a thing. i said the bolshies did not initially regard the councils as revolutionary (for the reasons laid out by lenin in _wtbd), and that they did not enter into the councils as a group till much later.

> But in your theory, what is the need for Bolshevik "decisions" judged
by the revolutionary people ? Why not just decisions made by the revolutionary people ?<

i don't have a principled problem with delegation or parties or councils or trade unions even though i have criticisms of how those operate in relation to the constitutive authority of the masses. are the masses merely a rhetorical figure that legitimates what is constituted or are they the final call? isn't there a difference between a vanguard which is chosen by the masses to lead and a vanguard which decides it must because only it knows the truth?

> The councils were incapable of spontaneously being revolutionary.<

even according to lenin (after 1905) and trotsky (see his _1905_), they *were* 'spontaneously' revolutionary (or rather they were revolutionary without the involvement of the bolsheviks). it's never clear whether 'spontaneous' means that they were without the specific guidance of the bolsheviks (which i suspect is exactly what it means for lenin) or whether it just means without guidance. certainly the councils were a form through which the russian workers organised themselves, and so were capable of thought.

>See Krupskaya on how Lenin constantly communicated with workers
throughout his career and based much of his analysis on that worker practice.<

i fail to see how talking to and analysing workers entails the ability of workers to recall the authority of lenin.

>The "leadership " was not coercive, couldn't make anybody , any worker
do anything. The Bolsheviks were a tiny, illegal group who didn't control anybody and were under constant danger of being imprisoned or killed by the Czarist police. Even in 1917 right before the insurrection, there was a death warrant out for Lenin from the Kerensky govt.<

i meant that after 1919, there is no recall.

>The name "Lenin" is a pseudonym. That should give an idea of what type
of anxiety he was under all along. Isn't that why he went bald ? :>) <

no doubt, vlad had much to be anxious about throughout his life. but i am actually quite interested in the particular anxiety of the older lenin, when for eg. he wrote _fewer better but better_. that kind of anxiety i would applaud. no derision meant at all.

Angela _________

More information about the lbo-talk mailing list