"Internal" challenges for revolutionary Marxism

  1. Die Neue Zeit
    Die Neue Zeit
    Hopscotch Anthill aptly described the three crises of political theory (consciousness, strategy vs. tactics, and post-revolution "order"), which relate exclusively to the relationship between Marxism and the workers' movement.

    However, may I posit three "internal" challenges? These challenges also have some sort of relationship with the relationship between Marxism and the workers' movement, but I think these challenges have more "internal" impacts:

    Reductionism

    There are plenty of ways to go about this particular challenge to revolutionary Marxism. Lenin, for example, decried the "worship" of spontaneity, which is reductionist in its exclusive reliance on the sheer number of working-class folks, and fails to take into account Gramsci's analysis on cultural hegemony.

    A second aspect of reductionism is the notion that capitalism has simplified class relations:

    http://www.revleft.com/vb/has-capita...831/index.html

    #1) Does the person exist outside a wage-labour system? [If yes, then the person is a lumpenprole.]

    #2) If Yes to #1, does the person contribute to the development of society's labour power and its capabilities? [If no, then the person merely contributes to the protection of the capitalist state machinery, and thus belongs to the same class as cops, security guards, judges, and lawyers. This "Class #2" also includes those elements of the traditional petit-bourgeoisie whose historical usefulness in developing society's labor power and its capabilities has expired, such as the manual bow-and-arrow handicrafts "occupation" that still exists today.]

    #3) If Yes to #2, does the person have at least a "significant influence" ownership stake in and/or active control over the means of production? [If no, then the person is of the working class.]

    #4) If Yes to #3, does the person have at least a "significant influence" ownership stake in the means of production? [If no, then the person is of the managerial class, comprised of lower (but this I don't mean a typical shift manager in retail or fast-food restaurants) and mid-level managers of bigger businesses, as well as all non-owning managers of smaller businesses, since non-active small business owners are obviously scarce (if existent at all).]



    [Note this big chasm here between #4 and #5 in regards to the petit-bourgeoisie: they can have anywhere from "significant influence" ownership to "controlling ownership" in the means of production, but never on a sufficiently social scale.]



    #5) If Yes to #4, does the person have a "controlling" ownership stake in the means of production on a sufficiently social scale ("social stake")? [If no, then the person is of the petit-bourgeoisie. There's the recent trend to "bourgeois-fy" top management through stock options and other ownership incentives.]

    #6) or #5a) If Yes to #5, does the person exercise active control over his/her "social stake" in the means of production? [If no, then the person is a "non-functioning capitalist."]
    Related to both of the above aspects is the reductionist (nowadays, or perhaps since Lenin and Luxemburg, IMO) base-superstructure analysis of society. I have said this in past threads that, since Marx was probably using the analogy of buildings as the basis of his analysis, there should be a "framework" in between. EDIT: In the more "distant" past, I have said that the superstructure should be split into two - the "framework" and the "skin." In the more "recent" past, I criticized this position as somewhat reductionist, because the "framework" just happened to have "underground connections" to the base itself, and took upon the position that part of the superstructure and part of the base should be amalgamated together to form the "framework." This "framework" would still have been related to questions of organization. The problem with this still-reductionist "recent" position is that it still doesn't describe "the motion, change, flux, shifting balance of forces, etc. that is the reality of class struggle and human civilisation" (PRC-UTE).

    [Now, what about the structure of the Earth as an analogy? There's a solid inner core, a liquid outer core, a solid mantle but with convection (the driving force for plate tectonics), and a crust (with plate tectonics)? Part of the "base" is still "static." As for organization, I think that convection is the best analogy. After all, without it, there are no plate movements, and without those, there would be no life!]

    On a more "philosophical note," perhaps related to the reductionist base-superstructure analysis above is the reductionist notion that Marxism has a "complete, integral world-outlook":

    http://marxists.anu.edu.au/reference...nni/smith4.htm

    It was in the 1890s, when Karl Marx had been safely dead for a decade, that Kautsky and Plekhanov invented ‘Marxism’. This total falsification of Marx’s work incorporated a story about a couple of ‘Young Hegelians’, who extracted the ‘dialectical method’ from Hegel’s system, and transplanted it into a materialist world-view. Then - so ran the tale - they could ‘apply’ materialism to history. The inventors of ‘Marxism’ gave their mythical beast the name ‘dialectical materialism’.

    ...

    In any case, he only had time to begin the study of one particular item on his agenda. If we refuse to be bound by the false notion of ‘Marxism’, the idea that it possessed the patent on a ‘complete, integral world-outlook’, then we stand a chance of following Marx’s lead and continuing his work into the uncharted terrain of the twenty-first century.
    A fifth aspect of reductionism is "traditional schematism." A most notable logical fallacy that leads to this is the erroneous equation (or, rather, reduction) of the entire "freedom of discussion, unity in action" to mere democratic centralism, as if the latter is the only possible expression of the former. Other aspects of "traditional schematism" include over-emphasis on traditional organizations of post-revolutionary society (as if the party has to be materially merged with the state, or as if only an absolute plurality of workers' parties can prevent "bureaucratization") and the notion of, in Rosa Luxemburg's words, "making a virtue of necessity."

    A sixth aspect of reductionism is over-emphasis on organization. Such over-emphasis, as if organization is the be-all-and-end-all solution to every single question, leads to "bureaucratization."

    Revisionism

    This one would have been more self-explanatory, had this term not been so abused in modern times. As noted in a Theory thread, it has been misused many a time for entirely personal reasons. Nevertheless, revisionism, objectively speaking, is merely an assault on the fundamental principles of revolutionary Marxism carried out by those claiming to adhere to those principles.

    One such assault is what I call "apocalyptic predestinationism." Yes, I am deliberately invoking comparisons to the predestination theology of John Calvin. This "apocalyptic predestinationism" led Kautsky to believe that capitalism would soon collapse because of a crisis either in the here and now or on the horizon - hence his perception that no real revolutionary theory was needed. "Apocalyptic predestinationism" almost led Lenin to deem imperialism to be the last stage of capitalism, but he then reverted to a pessimism (saying that he would not live to see revolution) that led to a bonus. Worse, "apocalyptic predestinationism" can be seen as the ideological cause of both Stalin's revisionist "theory" of "socialism in one country" and Trotsky's revisionist replacement of the minimum program with the transitional program.

    Sectarianism

    Some may think that, given my comments regarding "revisionist Trotskyism or revolutionary Marxism," sectarianism's root cause is reductionism. It isn't. Sectarianism can just as easily arise from differences in complex positions (and the placement of these positions above the more important issue of the class struggle) as it can from reductionist errors.



    Now, having said all of the above, some may be wondering why I have not entertained the usage of four words - "dogmatism", "idealism," "opportunism," and "reformism." Simply put, the second can mean any combination of the above. For example, idealists are reductionists in reducing the emergence of material conditions to mere ideas. If they happen to be amongst fellow comrades, they are revisionist in attacking the materialist basis of revolutionary Marxism. In any event, they can also be sectarian in placing their lofty ideas above more important issues.

    The usage of the word "dogmatism" implies the complete absence of "revisionism." One problem associated with this, however, is the combination of "traditional schematism" with long-held revisionist "principles" by many groups claiming to be "revolutionary."

    Meanwhile, "opportunism" is borne out of revisionist and/or sectarian causes. Last, but not least, "reformism" doesn't carry as much stigma as "revisionism." Self-proclaimed "revolutionary" groups which are in fact revisionist will easily scoff at the notion that they're reformist, but eyes will be wide open and ears will be willing to listen upon a revolutionary Marxist saying the words "revisionism" and "revisionist."



    Thoughts?
  2. PRC-UTE
    PRC-UTE
    Quote Originally Posted by Jacob Richter View Post
    Related to this is the reductionist (nowadays, or perhaps since Lenin and Luxemburg, IMO) base-superstructure analysis of society. I have said this in past threads that, since Marx was probably using the analysis of buildings as the basis of his analysis, there should be a "framework" in between. In the past, I have said that the superstructure should be split into two - the "framework" and the "skin." However, now I must openly criticize this position as somewhat reductionist, because the "framework" just happens to have "underground connections" to the base itself. Now, my position is that part of the superstructure and part of the base should be amalgamated together to form the "framework." This "framework" still happens to be related to questions of organization.

    Thoughts?
    You have a valid point, one I've spent a lot of time thinking about. The Marxist base-superstructure metaphor is reductionist and leads to the economist, crude materialist positions so common on the "Left". I think there are two reasons why this is. Here's some of my thoughts.

    1. the Marxist base-superstructure metaphor is incomplete, leaving out a lot of area "in between". Of course, this could be balanced and corrected by an intimate connection with the class struggle, and actual immersion in working class communities. However much of the "Left" are essentially middle class sects that are not in any connection with working class people: they drift further into an ideological bog, until their "parties" (study groups) have little relevance to the class.

    2. The base-superstructure allegory is deeply flawed because it should be a theory describing motion, and it doesn't describe motion: a structure implies a static, fixed situation. I found this out on my own first by trying to describe the basic ideas of Marxism through art, and finding that a building does not really illustrate the idea clearly at all.

    I think we should get away from the entire allegory of a structure, building, etc., and find a metaphor that describes the motion, change, flux, shifting balance of forces, etc. that is the reality of class struggle and human civilisation.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jacob Richter View Post
    Yet another aspect of reductionism is over-emphasis on organization. Such over-emphasis, as if organization is the be-all-and-end-all solution to every single question, leads to "bureaucratization."
    I'm going to have to mull over that one some more. That's a very interesting point: sometimes it seems like everyone on the Left finds a reason that a particular group failed, and how revolutionary forces could've been better organised to win. But perhaps victory is just impossible in certain instances, and not a question of organisation...

    Quote Originally Posted by Jacob Richter View Post
    Another aspect of reductionism is "traditional schematism." A most notable logical fallacy that leads to this is the erroneous equation (or, rather, reduction) of the entire "freedom of discussion, unity in action" to mere democratic centralism, as if the latter is the only possible expression of the former. Other aspects of "traditional schematism" include over-emphasis on traditional organizations of post-revolutionary society (as if the party has to be materially merged with the state, or as if only an absolute plurality of workers' parties can prevent "bureaucratization").
    What do you offer in place of democratic centralism?
  3. Die Neue Zeit
    Die Neue Zeit
    Quote Originally Posted by PRC-UTE View Post
    You have a valid point, one I've spent a lot of time thinking about. The Marxist base-superstructure metaphor is reductionist and leads to the economist, crude materialist positions so common on the "Left".
    So much for Lars Lih pronouncing "economism" as having been discredited before Lenin decided to use that term polemically against Rabocheye Dyelo...

    2. The base-superstructure allegory is deeply flawed because it should be a theory describing motion, and it doesn't describe motion: a structure implies a static, fixed situation. I found this out on my own first by trying to describe the basic ideas of Marxism through art, and finding that a building does not really illustrate the idea clearly at all.

    I think we should get away from the entire allegory of a structure, building, etc., and find a metaphor that describes the motion, change, flux, shifting balance of forces, etc. that is the reality of class struggle and human civilisation.
    I'll have to think hard about this one. If you're right, then even my "framework" position regarding organization fits within the scope of traditional schematism, and is thus reductionist!

    EDIT: What about the structure of the Earth as an analogy? There's a solid inner core, a liquid outer core, a solid mantle but with convection (the driving force for plate tectonics), and a crust (with plate tectonics)? You've got to admit that part of the "base" is still "static." As for organization, I think that convection is the best analogy. After all, without it, there are no plate movements, and without those, there would be no life!

    I'm going to have to mull over that one some more. That's a very interesting point: sometimes it seems like everyone on the Left finds a reason that a particular group failed, and how revolutionary forces could've been better organised to win. But perhaps victory is just impossible in certain instances, and not a question of organisation...
    Which leads right back to "core" materialism: the ball bounces back and forth between "core" materialism and organization.

    What do you offer in place of democratic centralism?
    I don't know if democratic/organic centralism can be replaced at this moment. If it is to be replaced, I don't know what can replace it, but whatever replaces it MUST be another form of "freedom of discussion, unity in action," as Comrade Nadezhda said in the "Democratic centralism..." thread.
  4. PRC-UTE
    PRC-UTE
    Quote Originally Posted by Jacob Richter View Post
    EDIT: What about the structure of the Earth as an analogy? There's a solid inner core, a liquid outer core, a solid mantle but with convection (the driving force for plate tectonics), and a crust (with plate tectonics)? You've got to admit that part of the "base" is still "static." As for organization, I think that convection is the best analogy. After all, without it, there are no plate movements, and without those, there would be no life!



    Which leads right back to "core" materialism: the ball bounces back and forth between "core" materialism and organization.
    That works a lot better: it demonstrates motion.
  5. Die Neue Zeit
    Die Neue Zeit
    Now, do you have any thoughts on the "integral world-outlook" stuff?
  6. Die Neue Zeit
    Die Neue Zeit
    In light of recent board events regarding a certain petit-bourgeois anarchist-turned-reformist, cooler heads need to prevail somewhere:

    http://www.revleft.com/vb/reformism-...97#post1086597

    Quote Originally Posted by Zeitgeist_91
    No Communist should hold the view that reforms should be rejected. Reformism most certainly help in the short term despite our final goal of socialist revolution, and should be perused where ever possible.
    There are two words that describe the notion that any sort of reform should be rejected: reductionist and sectarian.

    http://www.revleft.com/vb/minimum-an...845/index.html

    There are minimum demands that should be pursued first within the system. Then, there are reformist demands that could be achieved within a bourgeois system under pressure, but most aren't because of resistance by the bourgeoisie. Like RNK above said, these demands have to be fulfilled one way or another after the revolution.

    Then, above all, there are revolutionary demands (for some reason I can only think of the demand for proletocracy as being a revolutionary demand) - those that CANNOT be achieved even within a bourgeois system under pressure.
  7. Random Precision
    Sorry Jacob, I didn't see this thread and so posted my response to your comments on reformism in that other thread. I hope you won't mind if I cut-and-paste it here as well:

    There was one time in 1912 the tsarist Duma (which the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks had a handful each of deputies in) passed two laws, which essentially formed a fund for workers and employers to pay into that would pay out for workers who had industrial accidents and injuries. The purpose the Tsarists and Kadets who supported this law had was to defuse the rising revolutionary fervor of the masses by granting them some concessions. The actual laws passed were a small step forward, but still quite unsatisfactory: no workers in home industry, enterprises with less than twenty people, agricultural workers, construction workers, workers in the Siberian and Central Asian provinces, invalids, the old and unemployed were disqualified. Only about 20% of industrial workers qualified for the law!

    Now it may seem at this juncture that the Bolsheviks would have been right to spit on the piecemeal concessions by the feudal state. But in fact, they supported the law's passage, and once it was enacted, made sure to explain the exact terms of the legislation to the workers so they could extract the most benefit from it by putting daily articles in Pravda on the subject and calling meetings on it at which all workers could attend. They also took a lead role in gathering contributions for the workers' part of the insurance fund, and their deputies in the Duma agitated for a higher degree of worker control over the fund. The party itself agitated for extension of the law and even founded a journal called The Problems of Insurance, which Lenin himself frequently wrote for. Using these methods, the insurance issue, which the government had intended to use as a way to stabilize itself, was turned into a means for mobilizing the class-conscious proletariat against it! The Bolsheviks organized strikes and demonstrations on the issue, and during the imperialist war the insurance funds had 2 million worker members, among whom the influence of the Bolsheviks was immense. The insurance fund's board even had a majority of Bolsheviks elected to it at one point.

    I think that the Bolsheviks' approach to the insurance issue sets a model for how revolutionaries should deal with reforms. As Lenin said:

    ... any movement of the proletariat, however small, however modest he may be at the start, however slight its occasion, inevitably threatens to outgrow its immediate aims and to develop into a force irreconcilable to the entire old order and destructive of it. The movement of the proletariat, by reason of the essential peculiarities of the position of this class under capitalism, has a marked tendency to develop into a desperate, all-out struggle, a struggle for complete victory over all the dark forces of exploitation and oppression.
    Revolutionaries must remember how important reforms are, especially in the current period of reaction. Of course, we must recognize, and tell the workers, as the Bolsheviks did, that reforms must not be pursued for their own sake as they are no fundamental change for the lot of workers. This fundamental change can only come through revolution, and the workers must understand and appreciate this.
    Cheers, I'm off to bed.
  8. Hit The North
    Hit The North
    Related to both of the above aspects is the reductionist (nowadays, or perhaps since Lenin and Luxemburg, IMO) base-superstructure analysis of society. I have said this in past threads that, since Marx was probably using the analogy of buildings as the basis of his analysis, there should be a "framework" in between. EDIT: In the more "distant" past, I have said that the superstructure should be split into two - the "framework" and the "skin." In the more "recent" past, I criticized this position as somewhat reductionist, because the "framework" just happened to have "underground connections" to the base itself, and took upon the position that part of the superstructure and part of the base should be amalgamated together to form the "framework." This "framework" would still have been related to questions of organization. The problem with this still-reductionist "recent" position is that it still doesn't describe "the motion, change, flux, shifting balance of forces, etc. that is the reality of class struggle and human civilisation" (PRC-UTE).
    The problem isn’t that the base-superstructure metaphor is reductive, but that it is used in a reductive way by certain theoretical tendencies. And this is only really a problem because it manifests itself into either economism or (more rarely) voluntarism in practice.


    The base-superstructure metaphor is only a metaphor and is only meant to highlight key features within a complex system (i.e. society) and to ascribe an ordinal relationship to those features. Metaphors aren’t meant to capture the complexity of real life, but to simplify that complexity.
  9. Die Neue Zeit
    Die Neue Zeit
    ^^^ Ah, but keep in mind that Marx didn't have as much "information content" as we do today (whether he knew about convections and plate tectonics). Ironically, most ordinary people won't know the components of buildings, but they may know something like the geological structure of the earth.
  10. Die Neue Zeit
    Die Neue Zeit
    The material below is the first draft of Chapter 1 of The Class Struggle Revisited.



    CHAPTER 1: WHAT IS TO BE DONE?: CHALLENGES TO OVERCOMING THE CRISES OF THEORY



    “Without revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary movement.” (Vladimir Lenin)



    http://www.revleft.com/vb/done-chall...557/index.html
  11. Hit The North
    Hit The North
    Jacob, earlier I placed these comments in the 'Articles' forum. I reproduce them here:

    Actually, I think the section on Reductionism is the weakest. I agree with your rejection of the extreme scienticism of Kautsky's approach but fail to understand your rejection of the Base-Superstructure model,

    Let's begin the issue of base and superstructure with the passage by Marx in the Preface from which it is derived:
    In the social production of their life, men enter into definite relations that are indispensable and independent of their will, relations of production which correspond to a definite stage of development of their material productive forces. The sum total of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society, the real foundation, on which rises a legal and political superstructure and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness.
    The mode of production of material life conditions the social, political and intellectual life process in general. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but, on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness.
    At a certain stage of their development, the material productive forces of society come in conflict with the existing relations of production, or — what is but a legal expression for the same thing — with the property relations within which they have been at work hitherto. From forms of development of the productive forces these relations turn into their fetters.
    Then begins an epoch of social revolution. With the change of the economic foundation the entire immense superstructure is more or less rapidly transformed. In considering such transformations a distinction should always be made between the material transformation of the economic conditions of production, which can be determined with the precision of natural science, and the legal, political, religious, aesthetic or philosophic — in short, ideological forms in which men become conscious of this conflict and fight it out. Just as our opinion of an individual is not based on what he thinks of himself, so can we not judge of such a period of transformation by its own consciousness; on the contrary, this consciousness must be explained rather from the contradictions of material life, from the existing conflict between the social productive forces and the relations of production. http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx...reface-abs.htm
    What is reductionist about this account?

    The base-superstructure, is only a metaphor, designed to simplify a complex system or totality and highlight its essential features; it should not be stretched to breaking point. Nevertheless the model has at least three important functions:

    1. It demonstrates an ordinal relationship between the material (re)production of a society and the ideological and institutional aspects of society which correspond to it [social being determines consciousness]

    2. It offers a model of socio-historical change which posits agency and cause within the material relations of humans, rather than in their heads [the base comes into conflict with the superstructure]

    3. It also sets out some key methodological assumptions - tools by which to analyse the empirical evidence. Engels states this rather well, here:
    Men make their own history, whatever its outcome may be, in that each person follows his own consciously desired end, and it is precisely the resultant of these many wills operating in different directions, and of their manifold effects upon the outer world, that constitutes history. Thus it is also a question of what the many individuals desire. The will is determined by passion or deliberation. But the levers which immediately determine passion or deliberation are of very different kinds. Partly they may be external objects, partly ideal motives, ambition, "enthusiasm for truth and justice", personal hatred, or even purely individual whims of all kinds. But, on the one hand, we have seen that the many individual wills active in history for the most part produce results quite other than those intended -- often quite the opposite; that their motives, therefore, in relation to the total result are likewise of only secondary importance. On the other hand, the further question arises: What driving forces in turn stand behind these motives? What are the historical forces which transform themselves into these motives in the brains of the actors? http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx.../ecgp-marx.htm
    The model is only reductionist if you apply it mechanically, rather than dialectically - that is, as a series of relations in living motion. Engels again:
    According to the materialist conception of history, the ultimately determining element in history is the production and reproduction of real life. Other than this neither Marx nor I have ever asserted. Hence if somebody twists this into saying that the economic element is the only determining one, he transforms that proposition into a meaningless, abstract, senseless phrase....http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx...d/overview.htm
    Of course, this is where the 'building metaphor' breaks down, but so what? The job of analytically separating the different levels of social life (ideological and material) and demonstrating their general connections is done. What is left is the painstaking research required to show the particular within the general.

    What is reductionist is to see base and superstructure as a mono-causal model - or, as you put it, 'statically'. Engels again:
    Political, juridical, philosophical, religious, literary, artistic, etc., development is based on economic development. But all these react upon one another and also upon the economic base. It is not that the economic position is the cause and alone active, while everything else only has a passive effect. There is, rather, interaction on the basis of the economic necessity, which ultimately always asserts itself. http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx...-mat/index.htm
    To be honest, I don't see many benefits in your alternative metaphor.

    Your second section on Revisionism is also a bit of a puzzle. How are we supposed to define it and from what basis of orthodoxy? Now I know you express it thusly:
    Nevertheless, revisionism, objectively speaking, is merely an assault on the fundamental principles of revolutionary Marxism carried out by those claiming to adhere to those principles.
    but it would help if you outlined what you thought those 'fundamental principles' are and why, in the particular case you use, Trotsky's formulation of the transitional program is a revision of fundamental Marxist principles.

    Is revision always a negative or can it be positive?

    On another point: In your section on Sectarianism you begin with:
    The sectarianism in question is, to borrow Marx’s words, more of the “practical, real” type, and less of the obvious “Sabbath” type.
    Quite rightly, you point out that sectarianism isn't the case of thinking that your 'line' is better than others in the workers movement, but letting that belief stand in the way of unity in action. Why, therefore, is the tactic of “March separately, but strike together!” raised as an example of sectarianism? Surely it's a formulation designed to overcome sectarianism in a period when the Left is fractured and divided over doctrinaire issues.
  12. Enragé
    Enragé
    In the more "distant" past, I have said that the superstructure should be split into two - the "framework" and the "skin." In the more "recent" past, I criticized this position as somewhat reductionist, because the "framework" just happened to have "underground connections" to the base itself, and took upon the position that part of the superstructure and part of the base should be amalgamated together to form the "framework." This "framework" would still have been related to questions of organization. The problem with this still-reductionist "recent" position is that it still doesn't describe "the motion, change, flux, shifting balance of forces, etc. that is the reality of class struggle and human civilisation" (PRC-UTE).
    As they said in Paris, in may '68:
    "NO REPLASTERING - THE STRUCTURE IS ROTTEN"

    Comrades, nothing new has been said since '68, nothing new has been done since '36.

    I propose people here read The Society of the Spectacle by Débord, if they haven't already, by many described as the Das Kapital of the 20th century.

    Situationism is the closest thing to my "ideology" (a word flawed in the marxist context), i.e the creation of new situations as both method of struggle as well as "end-goal" (which effectively means the end of an end-goal as such), causing for the need of the structuring of post-revolutionary society in such a way that each individual has as much power as possible [without infringing on the power of the others] to create new situations.
  13. Die Neue Zeit
    Die Neue Zeit
    ^^^ What does that have to do with the base-superstructure approach to analyzing society?

    Citizen Zero, in my original post above, you'll note that when I questioned mere base-superstructure, I posited as a replacement "base-framework-skin," since I really wanted to emphasize the role of organization in social analysis.

    I had two threads on "base-framework-skin":

    http://www.revleft.com/vb/limitation...278/index.html
    http://www.revleft.com/vb/lenin-stal...656/index.html

    When I originally created this thread, I carried over this concept, hence the bold "EDIT." PRC-UTE responded with an equally dialectical criticism and suggesting abandoning the building metaphor altogether.

    Digging up some of my elementary-school science interests, I then suggested the structure of the Earth itself: some layers are "rock-solid," while others are liquid or subject to easy movement. You may wish to engage in conversation with him, as well.



    Your second section on Revisionism is also a bit of a puzzle. How are we supposed to define it and from what basis of orthodoxy? Now I know you express it thusly: but it would help if you outlined what you thought those 'fundamental principles' are and why, in the particular case you use, Trotsky's formulation of the transitional program is a revision of fundamental Marxist principles.
    Maybe it's because of the structure of The Class Struggle Revisited in terms of why I couldn't explain Trotsky's revisionism in the chapter. The chapter-in-progress "One Step Forward, Two Steps Back, and Building the Mass Party of the Working Class" will address this as well as the stuff in my thread on minimum-reformist-revolutionary demands. Anyway, I'd like to point this out:

    http://www.revleft.com/vb/revisionis...170/index.html

    The CVO article above (mind you that Ben Seattle calls the organization's members "cargo-cult Leninists" for suffering a mild cold of sectarianism and not the flu pandemic of Trotskyist sectarianism) goes on to discuss the problem of Trotsky's transitional program, namely the idea that it gives a "revolutionary" coating to not-even-genuinely-reformist minimum programs.

    However, given my recent readings, it demonstrates the author's (Trotsky's) fundamental ignorance of "Erfurtianism" (my thread). Just because Marxism can be merged with the workers' movement at some point doesn't mean that there will be some sort of combined program, which only serves to confuse the working class. The main idea of "Erfurtianism" is that the "workers' movement" component would have a better understanding of the need to have (and fight for) genuine reformist and revolutionary goals, while articulating them separately for workers within to comprehend. Meanwhile, the "Marxist" component (the most effective manifestation being that of the vanguard party, naturally) would gain valuable insight in fighting for the reformist goals of the workers' movement, thus enhancing its support from the latter, to that decisive point wherein all those insights into fighting for minimum and reformist goals provide the necessary experience to be a most effective vanguard for the working class as a whole when it comes to revolutionary goals.

    Worse of all, the author created this notion on the basis of an "apocalyptic predestinationism" - specifically, the notion that capitalism is doomed to collapse during a crisis either in the here and now or on the horizon - not unlike that which affected Karl Kautsky himself.
    http://www.revleft.com/vb/minimum-an...845/index.html



    Is revision always a negative or can it be positive?
    Since in the Marxist movement that word has a negative connotation, I prefer to use other words that describe more positive changes: re-definition (hence my re-definition of the Marxist concept of class), re-formulation, etc.

    Why, therefore, is the tactic of “March separately, but strike together!” raised as an example of sectarianism? Surely it's a formulation designed to overcome sectarianism in a period when the Left is fractured and divided over doctrinaire issues.
    That sure didn't prevent the Cliffites, Grantites, Mandelites, etc. from thinking of "marching separately but striking together" as circles, did it?

    Look, I'm OK with "practical sectarianism" vis a vis anarchists, but not this (and Ludo Martens isn't OK with it for his "Marxist-Leninist" bunch worldwide, either).

    You should read my thread on "Democratic centralism vs. Lenin's slogan," since the material there will also be covered in the chapter-in-progress "One Step Forward, Two Steps Back, and Building the Mass Party of the Working Class." The problem with Trotskyist circle-ism is outlined in that thread.



    P.S. - In case you were wondering about the outline for my work, please refer to my outline thread in the CC ("The Class Struggle Revisited").
  14. Enragé
    Enragé
    ^^^ What does that have to do with the base-superstructure approach to analyzing society?
    to be honest, i got bored after reading the first few paragraphs and simply threw my opinion out there :P
  15. PRC-UTE
    PRC-UTE
    Quote Originally Posted by Jacob Richter View Post
    When I originally created this thread, I carried over this concept, hence the bold "EDIT." PRC-UTE responded with an equally dialectical criticism and suggesting abandoning the building metaphor altogether.

    Digging up some of my elementary-school science interests, I then suggested the structure of the Earth itself: some layers are "rock-solid," while others are liquid or subject to easy movement. You may wish to engage in conversation with him, as well.
    Right, I mentioned that while initially fond of the metaphor, I came to reject base-superstructure over time because I realised that it is not dialectical, it is completely static. Others have made the same observation; I came to understand this when I tried to demonstrate the dialectical process of base-superstructure through visual art and found it difficult to express the main ideas of change. I think shifting plates, earthquakes, the example Jacob offered works very well. Whether it will catch on is another story...
  16. Hit The North
    Hit The North
    PRC-UTE,

    Using your powers of visual art, maybe you could illustrate how Jacob's metaphor works and how it is superior to Marx's, as, I have to admit, it has me non-plussed.

    Jacob, on the question of sectarianism:
    That sure didn't prevent the Cliffites, Grantites, Mandelites, etc. from thinking of "marching separately but striking together" as circles, did it?
    I think that calling these organizations (particularly the SWP and the old Grantite Militant) "circles", which denotes more or less passive discussion groups, is a complete mis-characterization of organizations which have, in the past, mobilized hundreds of thousands against the Fascists (ANL); against the Tories (Miners Support Groups; anti-Poll Tax) and against the invasion of Iraq.

    On the question of Trotsky's slogan, it is important to understand its historical context as a tactical formulation to meet the concrete demands of a particular period - i.e. the struggle against the Nazis in the 1930s. It was Stalin's designation of the Social Democrats as "social fascists" which was splitting the workers opposition to Hitler. Trotsky's formulation was an attempt to overcome such sectarian and catastrophically poor tactics. This is what Trotsky had to say on the matter:
    "No common platform with the Social Democracy, or with the leaders of the German trade unions, no common publications, banners, placards! March separately, but strike together! Agree only how to strike, whom to strike, and when to strike! Such an agreement can be concluded even with the devil himself... "No retraction of our criticism of the Social Democracy. No forgetting of all that has been. The whole historical reckoning, including the reckoning for Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg, will be presented at the proper time, just as the Russian Bolsheviks finally presented a general reckoning to the Mensheviks and Social Revolutionaries for the baiting, calumny, imprisonment and murder of workers, soldiers, and peasants."
    The Stalinist response to this was to brand Trotsky as the "worst kind of social fascist". Of course, only a few years later, when it was too late and Hitler was in power, the Stalinists stole Trotsky's formulation, in a distorted form, as the Popular Front.

    Look, I'm OK with "practical sectarianism" vis a vis anarchists, but not this
    Sorry, it's not clear to me what this means.
  17. Die Neue Zeit
    Die Neue Zeit
    Quote Originally Posted by Citizen Zero View Post
    Jacob, on the question of sectarianism: I think that calling these organizations (particularly the SWP and the old Grantite Militant) "circles", which denotes more or less passive discussion groups, is a complete mis-characterization of organizations which have, in the past, mobilized hundreds of thousands against the Fascists (ANL); against the Tories (Miners Support Groups; anti-Poll Tax) and against the invasion of Iraq.
    As Comrade DrFreeman09 said in the "circle-ism" thread (and keep in mind that, like capital expansion, the human population has expanded, so "local" today can be much bigger than "local" in Lenin's time):

    Quote Originally Posted by DrFreeman09
    The sectarianism present today is similar to this "circle-ism."

    But I also think that when it comes to sectarianism, there is more to it than that.

    Sectarianism stems from the tendency of individuals to see themselves as right and everyone else as wrong. This is a pretty widespread tendency among humans in general. But sectarianism is furthered by the basic structure of nearly all Leftist "parties" today. You commented in a different thread that there are three "Marxist-Leninist" parties in Russia. Which one has the correct line? Each of those parties believes that it has the correct line, but none of those parties have reached their conclusions through the open struggle between trends combined with the experience of class struggle necessary to reveal the correct line. That is sectarianism.

    Sectarianism is rooted not just in the people running those organizations, but in their flawed structure. Instead of "casting a wide net," they are "building a brick wall." They start out with a set of "correct" ideals and attempt to recruit people into their legion of thinking. This breeds sectarianism. It also completely ignores the process of finding the correct slogans and ideals through the experience of class struggle. In other words, it ignores materialism.

    So essentially, there are no parties that have the "correct line" because their lines have not been reached in any kind of materialist way. They believe that they can circumvent the process of struggle that brings the "correct line" in to the light as a result of the experience of class struggle.

    But you cannot circumvent this process. The only exception is when there is a leading party that directs other parties based on their own experience, but no such party exists. Another part of sectarianism is the belief of some of these parties that they are destined to fulfill that role.

    But Lenin's party will not be replicated unless we replicate the process by which it was created: i.e. YEARS of open struggle between various trends in a relatively loose mass party. The "correct-line" will be reached through the experience of class struggle within this mass party. Sectarians believe that they already have the correct line and thus can recruit everyone else into their legion of thinking.
    In terms of equating this phenomenon with "circle-ism," let's just say that I have to be polemical to get my point across:

    Quote Originally Posted by Lenin
    "Obviously, an episode in the struggle against economism has here been confused with a principled presentation of a major theoretical question, namely the formation of an ideology.... We all know that the ‘economists’ bent the stick in one direction. In order to straighten the stick it was necessary to bend it in the other direction, and that is what I did."
    And here's what I have to say:

    Obviously, an episode in the struggle against modern "practical, real" sectarianism has here been confused with a principled presentation of a major theoretical question, namely the formation of the mass party of the working class.... We all know that the self-proclaimed "vanguards" of today ("circle-ists") bent the stick in one direction. In order to straighten the stick it was necessary to bend it in the other direction, and that is what I am doing.



    On the question of Trotsky's slogan, it is important to understand its historical context as a tactical formulation to meet the concrete demands of a particular period - i.e. the struggle against the Nazis in the 1930s.
    That may be true, but I said "ironically sectarian" because of its long-term implications.

    1) Remember what I said regarding Lenin's Social-Democratic error regarding state capitalism and "socialism" (an error still put forth by Trot and ML parties) in the Theory thread? State capitalism may have developed extensively back then to justify not calling Lenin's error either reductionist or revisionist (or both), but given the widespread information and increased information requirement (must-know) today, to equate the socialist mode of production with anything other than something that operates on the basis of non-wage, labour-time economics would tantamount to modern reductionism AND revisionism.

    2) Remember what I said regarding Marx's class analysis? Again, limited information and information requirement (must-know) back then, but there have been developments. You get the picture.

    Likewise, when Trotsky formulated it, he had "good intentions." However, in the long run such "good intentions," when taken out of their original context, have justified "circle-ism" (again, consider my definition of "local" above). Hence, the Cliffites, Grantites, Mandelites, etc. (and note my usage of "-ites" to describe them instead of the overall Trotskyist movement ).
  18. PRC-UTE
    PRC-UTE
    Quote Originally Posted by Citizen Zero View Post
    PRC-UTE,

    Using your powers of visual art, maybe you could illustrate how Jacob's metaphor works and how it is superior to Marx's, as, I have to admit, it has me non-plussed.
    Sure, when I have some spare time...

    Quote Originally Posted by Citizen Zero View Post
    On the question of Trotsky's slogan, it is important to understand its historical context as a tactical formulation to meet the concrete demands of a particular period - i.e. the struggle against the Nazis in the 1930s. It was Stalin's designation of the Social Democrats as "social fascists" which was splitting the workers opposition to Hitler.
    The social fascist line was clearly a mistake, no arguments about that, but Stalin's line was not the cause of the split in the workers' movement in Germany. It began before the Stalinist period entirely.
  19. Die Neue Zeit
    Die Neue Zeit
    Using your powers of visual art, maybe you could illustrate how Jacob's metaphor works and how it is superior to Marx's, as, I have to admit, it has me non-plussed
    If all else fails, I appeal to the merger formula.

    Seriously, do kids learn about the structure of buildings in elementary or high school? From my current knowledge, I don't think so. On the other hand, do kids learn about the structure and "behaviour" of the earth in elementary or high school (crust, plate tectonics, mantle, and outer and inner cores)? You bet they do: in their science classes (convection can be learned later ).

    Surely adults of my generation and younger will know a thing or two about the structure and "behaviour" of the earth (at the very least, the crust, plate tectonics, and "the core"). The same cannot be said with certainty about popular knowledge of the structure of buildings.
  20. Die Neue Zeit
    Die Neue Zeit
    A new edit of the chapter-article is both above and in the Article Submissions forum to account for the "Languages" thread debate regarding direct relationships between the base and the superstructure, which my initial geocentric model didn't take into consideration: the outer core and Earth's magnetic field.
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