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Fault with the Russian Revolution did not originate with Stalin

This is a response to the article "Could socialism have resolved humankind's conflict with its environment?" - admin

Democratic Centralism the underlying flaw pf the Communist movement

In a nutshell, I think that your faith in the Russian Revolution is misplaced. Like many critics of Stalin, you don't see that the fault does not originate with Uncle Joe but with Lenin's concept of democratic centralism, a concept that made Stalin, Mao, Castro, and Ho Chi Minh inevitable. Trotsky was a Stalinist who lost a power struggle. His firm resolution and ruthless determination to win was demonstrated by how he put down the workers at the Kronstadt "revolt" where he said he would shoot them down like rabbits - and he did. It is unlikely that there ever would have been a successful revolution without Lenin and his idea of what kind of a party it takes to capture power in an agragrian society. It could not be a party like the German Social Democratic Party. The SPD could afford to be a bottom-up organization because it was operating in an industrialized country where 80% of the population were potential supporters--working class. And in a political environment of much less persecution. Lenin's Russian Social Democrats were organized around the clandestine distribution of a newspaper, Iskra. He knew a successful Russian revolutionary party had to be disciplined like an army and led by a General Staff. His favourite book was "On War" by Clausewitz. The Mensheviks and the Social Revolutionaries were far too loose. Trotsky was originally a Menshivik but he came over to Lenin's thinking. For him, democratic centralism was a compromise between dictatorship and democracy. A political party that represents only 10% of the population cannot be open to the 90% of peasantry whose behaviour historically was unruly and unpredictable. The peasants must be led, not followed. Other communist parties have given different weight to each part of the 'worker-peasant' alliance, but in all cases, it is the party, not the classes, which is in control. Does it make such a difference if it is rule by committee or cult rule by one man?

Marxist-Leninism a strategy for seizing power in a pre-industrial society

So Marxist-Leninism is a strategy for seizing power in a pre-industrial society. It was not meant to be the template for socialism.

Lenin and his colleagues assumed that a Russian Revolution was only a stop-gap until a larger revolution in Europe would occur, dethrone capitalism, and then a socialist Europe with its industrial might would come to the rescue of the Russian revolution and save it from barbarism. No one in Russia for a moment believed in "socialism in one country." Not in a peasant society. The peasant commune had broken down and if it hadn't it did not have the material basis to provide for a decent living. Lenin defined utopia as "socialism plus electricity".

But the European revolution did not come. Barely. History's turning point was 1919. Not just in Europe, but in North America too. That is when we had capitalism on the ropes. Mass strikes everywhere. We came ever so close. Read a book called the Red Mirage. Last year I read a couple of novels about Rosa Luxemburg and the German Revolution of 1919. That was the Marxism that the world was supposed to know. Democratic and free as well as egalitarian. And no personality cults. Instead, the world knows only Leninism and social democracy.(Labourism). This is the failed revolution you should be lamenting, not the Russian one.

Socialist attitude to nature

And what of the socialist attitude to nature? Well, I am skeptical that Marxists of any kind would have accepted limits to growth. They were captured by the Victorian zeitgeist. There is a tradition however of pre-Marxian socialists who were affected by an appreciation of nature.
William Cobbett comes to mind. I am sure there were Russian socialists of that order too (Chernashevsky?) This is an area I would love to explore.

What I have written above comes off the top of my head from memory cells that have not been accessed since the Beatles were number one on the charts. Some of my "facts" might need checking. Everything I wrote then is stored away in a locker somewhere. God knows where.

Could socialism have ended unsustainable growth?

The argument you put forward is interesting and the closing paragraph is what interests me most. If we were able to disarm the profit motive from society and dismantle Madison avenue, would that alone be sufficient to undercut the most decisive lobby for population growth in our countries?
Would that put an end to growthism? The environmental record of the Soviet Bloc, China, North Korea, Nasser's socialist Egypt, was appalling. Social democratic governments in Canada permitted Crown corporations to do much damage as well and currently both regimes are committed to population and economic growth. Where in the left-wing mindset is there, necessarily, a Malthusian inhibition? My feeling is that that understanding issues from an intuitive understanding of our predicament, not a scientific, or "ideological" one. That is why I am no longer a "scientific" socialist.

Someone Marx had no time for.

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Comments

This raises a host of important questions.

Incidentally, Stalinist don't practice "democratic centralism" in any sense only centralism. In fact, this can also said of most political parties, even though they dont't refer to it as either "democratic centralist" or "centralist".

Try publicly speaking out against what a Labor Minister if you are a member of the Labor Party (even where Labor ministers act against Labor policy as in fully privatising the State Govenment Insurance Office, still half owned by the Queesnland Government in 1998) or against Bob Brown if you are a Green and see how long you remain a member.

I consider the "centralism" part of "democratic centralism" to be a sometimes necessary evil, especially where one is operating under a police state. It allows, within an organisation for differenced to be discussed, but for that orgainisation to present a united public face on that question.

However organisations that do practice "democratic centralism" in its true sense often fall into the trap of inisting that the organisation maintain a monolithic united front on every policy or tactical issue no matter how insignificant, and regardless of how free and open the society in whihc they are operating is. Usually, this coincides with growing restrictions upon internal avenues of discussion under the guise of preventing disruption to the party's functioning.