Class Struggle 32
Class Struggle is the bimonthly publication of the Communist Workers’ Group, New Zealand section of the Liaison Committee of Militants for a Revolutionary Communist International. PO Box 6595, Auckland, New Zealand. Emailcwgnz@pl.net.
The New ERA? (what’s good and bad in the new labour law)
Say No! to Racist attacks on Migrant workers!
Bolivia: peasants insurgency brings state of emergency. The State of Siege!
The struggle for a Workers' and Farmers' Government in Bolivia
The Ministry of Whose Development? (Labour/Alliance policy announcement)
Who Owns the Universities? (The case for social ownership)
Socialist Workers and 'socialism from below'.
Argentina: new government attacks workers’ rights. (POR)
Polemic: The legacy of Stalinism in Russia today (on A B Razlatsky)
- Razlatsky on Stalinism
- Razlatsky on the Party
Editorial: The Return of Workers Power?
The bosses’ propaganda machine is running hot painting up the new Labour Alliance Government as a return to ‘workers’ power’. Warren Berryman editor (and owner) of the Independent, is especially virulent in condemning the Employment Relations Bill as a return of the ‘bad old days’ of union stand-over tactics. Paul Norris, boss of ANZ and new chairman of the Business Round Table argued that NZ is now alone in the civilised world returning to state interventionist policies (Independent, 9/2/00). Our old new right mouthpiece Gareth Morgan can’t contain his righteous rage about the "shroud of socialism descending over NZ" (NBR 24/3/00). The Air Force high command spits out its venom at the government’s decision to flag the F16s and phase out fighters. Hired hacks claim this decision will put NZ back in the ‘third world’ like a Latin American country. Haven’t they heard? NZ is already a defacto economic dependency of Australia and third-world client state of the USA.
That's why the US and Australian ruling classes are not bothered by this return to ‘state socialism’. There’s not much state and there's no bloody socialism. The new ERB will merely restore the trade union bureaucracy’s charter to manage workers to get more productivity out of them. Since productivity under the ECA went up dramatically at a rate of 2.4% a year, this is a promise that the unions can deliver even more! Labour Minister Wilson said as much. Council of Trade Unions secretary Coulter claims the ERB’s impact will be slight because it will cover only about 20% of the workforce (he wishes!). And deputy minister Laila Harre assures the bosses that there will be no return to "unions holding the country to ransom".
Clinton can recognise his clone when he sees one. The US can easily base a few F16s downunder so why worry? After all, if NZ has any enemy it is the US. It is the only power that has any serious investment in NZ that it would want to protect from any future workers’ government’s plans to socialise anything. Stationing a few planes on loan would have the advantage of making an actual invasion unnecessary. Not only would the US gift us the planes, but the missiles would be free too. Bit like the Hawker Hunters that took out Allende in Chile in 1973.
So the present government is far from being a threat to US and Australian business interests. While kiwi new right alarmists write about the flight of US capital out of NZ, the same business papers report the large-scale buyouts of NZ firms by US, EU or Asian corporations (Air NZ to Singapore, Fletcher Paper to Norway's Norske Skog). So the new rights’ scare mongering misfires. There never was a bogy called state socialism in NZ except in the bosses’ nightmares. Nothing like workers’ power has ever erupted. State intervention was always designed to boost profits. It’s still doing it. Most of state spending is still in the form of handouts to business. Cheap health, education and welfare still subsidises profits. Selloffs of state assets like Telecom, NZ Rail, Forestry and oil concessions at bargain prices. A big grant to Team NZ in the America’s Cup which refuses to open its books to its gullible supporters. The new Ministry of Economic Development will target handouts to the deserving rich (See article). The new Government is as far from workers power as Bill Gates is from the dole.
Before we can get workers' power in this country we have to demolish the myth that Labour, the Alliance or the Greens are any sort of real workers parties. Their mission is to prop up business by keeping the rest of us doped by the prospect of a benign democratic dakside of global capitalism. They are the downunder Blairite managers of kiwi kapitalism. Our task is to expose them and depose them.
The New ERA? The good, bad and the ugly
The new ERB is a double-edged law. Its designed to put a new leg-iron (an electronic bracelet) on workers to get more profits out of them. But at the same time it offers workers the opportunity to rebuild the unions as fighting, democratic organisations able to remove that bracelet. So while workers have to fight to get as good a deal from the Government as possible, Class Struggle says that it is not possible to reconcile the interests of the working class and the capitalist class within the framework of bourgeois parliament. The only guarantee of workers rights and living standards is the revolutionising of the unions as a step towards a workers government capable of building a socialist society.
Union officials are cheering along the Employment Relations Bill because they see it as the end of the Employment Contracts Act that for nine years wreaked havoc on the unions and their jobs. The question is – will the new ERA smash the ECA? No way! Even the politicians admit this. Mark Gosche (Labour MP and former organiser for the Service Workers union) puts a left Labourist point of view. The new bill is an attempt to revive the unions as bargaining agents. But Goshe knows that the Labour Government is in no position to restore the situation before the ECA. Meanwhile, the bosses are screaming about the ERB returning them to the bad old days of trade union muscle. To appease the bosses, Margaret Wilson, Minister of Labour, and Laila Harre, associate Minister of Labour, say the purpose of the Bill is to restore industrial harmony as a means of increasing productivity. Harrre says that there will be no unions "holding the country to ransom". So what is in it for workers?
Gains for workers
A fundamental improvement over the ECA is the ERB recognises that workers must organise collectively in order to be able to bargain effectively with employers. The ECA did not mention unions and was designed to destroy them. The ERB promotes unions by saying that only unions can bargain for workers and negotiate collective agreements.
However, the ERB also recognises that the strength of the collective is not imposed by state compulsion, but by organising on the job. The Bill provides a framework for unions to work and give protection to workers. Unions must also be independent of bosses. This is designed to prevent bosses setting up tame house unions. But the only guarantee against this, however, is the vigilance of an active rank-and-file who control their unions.
The ERB restores unions to an important role in the workplace. One of the key provisions is giving unions right of entry into the workplace. At present, the bosses can get rid of the union by stopping union representatives coming to see workers. These bosses often put pressure on their workers to sign individual contracts. For example, this has happened in lots of supermarkets. Low paid retail workers, mostly women, have lost pay and conditions without union support.
The right of entry provision will make it possible to re-unionise those who have left unions, or never joined under the ECA. It will allow them to organise workers in workplaces to push for better conditions. It will help build up collective strength by allowing unions to recruit by giving workers information about the union.
However, for this to become a reality, it will be necessary for rank and file unionists to make sure that their delegates and elected officials are properly elected and accountable, and that women, Maori and other minorities are well represented and have the right to form their own caucuses. Unions will also be entitled to two paid stopwork meetings a year.
The ERB changes the whole emphasis away from contracts between individuals so favoured by the new right, to collective agreements. Collective agreements are voted by a majority of workers. If the workers want it, an agreement can extend to more than one union and more than one workplace.
This raises the possibility of rank and file workers widening agreements to include whole industries, or all sites of a particular company, undoing the ECA’s drive to fragment workers onto many different individual and site contracts.
There is a requirement for the bosses to give their new workers information about the union. In the first 30 days of a new job, the worker goes onto an individual contract with the same conditions as the collective agreement made through the union. At the end of 30 days the worker chooses whether to join the union or go on an individual contract. This means union membership is still voluntary and it puts the onus on unionised workers to persuade the new worker of the benefits of their collective.
Workers have a limited right to strike after 40 days of negotiations. If workers strike, it will become illegal for the bosses to employ scab labour, i.e. workers who will do the jobs of the striking workers and sabotage the strike. If the strike prevents other workers on site from doing their work, the boss can suspend them but not sack them during the dispute.
There is less emphasis on legalistic solutions as under the ECA. Instead "good faith" bargaining is encouraged. This involves both bosses and workers being prepared to bargain honestly and support the claims they make. Opposition leader Jenny Shipley and some bosses are raving against the idea that bosses have to back up their claims. They don't like the "disclosure of relevant information" which will mean that if a boss claims that his business will lose money if he gives his workers a pay rise, he will have to prove it. This will get around "benevolent" bosses like Dick Hubbard takes his workers on holiday to Samoa and claims his workers are "ungrateful" when they try to get a pay rise and better conditions that match other cereal makers. Hubbard would have to front up with the business accounts to prove that he was justified in saying that the increases would put his business in jeopardy.
Workers can take education leave. The government, the bosses and the unions will pay for the education. This is designed to encourage workers' understanding of worker rights and may strengthen their involvement in worker agitation.
ERB cannot end exploitation.
As stated by the Government, the purpose of the bill is to restore a ‘balance’ between workers and employers so that both parties benefit from increased productivity and growth. However, as Marxists we know that increased productivity means increased exploitation of workers as they produce more with their labour. In other words the Bill may help some workers to improve their wages, but it cannot end the wage system. The Labour Government like any bourgeois government is committed to increasing exploitation to increase profits. Labour, unlike National, believes that it can do so more efficiently by getting workers and employers to work harmoniously together.
So the Bill is a first step towards protecting unions and union growth so as to boost productivity. It does not prevent contracting out work at lower rates of pay. The Bill requires that where there are changes to the business that will affect workers, the bosses must consult with workers. But Gosche admits that this cannot really stop contracting out. He suggests that it needs to be followed up in a minimum code for workers. However, we know that only a strong union movement rebuilt on the basis of a powerful rank and file can stop contracting out and impose a minimum code (see article on Migrant Workers).
Although the Bill allows for multi-employer bargaining, this is unlikely to happen unless there is a strong push from workers. The economy has been radically restructured. Under conditions created by the ECA, most of the old national awards have gone and bargaining is for site contracts. A few unions like the PPTA, which fought and retained national coverage, will hold onto that. But the ERB alone cannot overcome the existing reality of site agreements. This will have to come from a strong rank and file movement led by communist delegates.
Individual contracts are retained and protected. Workers on individual contracts who feel they are being treated unfairly can seek redress through the legal means of the personal grievance system that is also retained. At the moment between 80% to 90% of the personal grievance cases before the Employment Tribunal are for non-union workers. Decisions show that getting real justice for workers through the Tribunal is virtually impossible. This means that the onus is on rank and file workers to try to win workers into collectives and to join the unions.
Smash the ECA
As communists we did not expect the new ERB to "smash the ECA". That can only be done by a revived militant union movement. For a start we can use the new ERB as a crutch to learn to walk again. Once it’s up and running the union movement will find the new ERA puts the same old 'leg iron' on its ability to act independently of the state. This is because the whole thrust of the Bill is to make the employment relationship congenial so disputes can be reined in and resolved. It aims to create co-operation between bosses and workers on the basis of mutual trust. These assumptions of mutual goodwill are enshrined in the Fairness at Work campaign and the 'partnership' between unions and bosses promoted by the CTU. This is the historic ideology of the labour bureaucracy which currently controls the unions and runs the Labour Party.
The bosses are already screaming that they hate the ERB and will oppose it vigorously. But workers will not be trapped into meekly accepting this limited reform for fear of upsetting the bosses. Workers can and will show that they are not passive and they can fight for their rights. Once again they will show, like the Red Federation before the First World War, and the Trade Union Congress in the early 1950’s, that militants can break with the bosses law and take on the bosses directly. To revive that tradition the unions will have to smash the legacy of state arbitration that remains in the ERB. Unions will then have been transformed into workers committees capable of demolishing the parliamentary road block and smashing the wage system and with it capitalist exploitation.
Union bureaucrats call cops on ‘illegal’ workers.
Say No to Racist attacks on Migrant workers!
If recent comments by NDU (National Distribution Union) Secretary Mike Jackson regarding police and immigration raids on work sites employing ‘illegal’ Asian workers are anything to go by, then it is time to root out such racist and nationalist flag waving attitudes that serve to reinforce chauvinist divisions through the working class.
Former Socialist Unity Party member Jackson was recently quoted as saying that "illegal immigration is a problem for NZ industry in that it drags wages and conditions down, making it harder to develop skills which end up going across the ditch (Tasman Sea)". Such sentiments are not new. The fear of loss of jobs and conditions to ‘foreign workers’ has become a mantra trotted out by the right wing and phony left of the union movement.
The phony is left represented partly by the neo-Stalinist S.P.A. (Socialist Party of Aotearoa) whose President and second in command are NDU President Bill Andersen and Mike Jackson respectively. As adherents of the doctrine of ‘socialism in one country’ (see box below) it is hardly surprising that the non-internationalist position taken by such leaders is to the fore on the illegal immigration question.
Labour parties by their very nature try to con workers into believing that the bosses’ state can protect their jobs. The labour bureaucrats have taken a protectionist line in guarding the local conditions of workers not as a benevolent measure in the workers’ interests but as a means of putting the lid on any attempt by workers to rise up in the event of crises affecting their work conditions.
This is done first by ensuring that all key union positions are occupied by social democratically minded or phony left leaders. Their only interest is to guard their bureaucratically controlled high perches where they stand as intermediaries between bosses and workers. This union bureaucracy was called the labour lieutenants of capital by Trotsky because they control the workers as "troops" for the bosses.
The other measure which is being called for by the top union leaderships is the reintroduction of trade tariffs which amount to nothing more than a subsidy (profit top up) that goes into the bosses’ pockets and not the workers. More importantly tariffs act as barriers that stand between the workers internationally and can escalate into wars were workers are sent to fight workers to defend their bosses profits.
Rare international solidarity actions such as the MUA (Maritime Union of Australia) ban on handling military supplies to Indonesia over East Timor and the US Longshore Union support of the MUA over the struggle against scab labour on Australian wharves, are exceptions. But they were still limited by their bureaucratic leadership who continue the national chauvinism that stifles true internationalism.
‘Socialism in One Country’.
The defunct and discredited Stalinist concept of ‘socialism in one country’ bears responsibility for a large part of the current union attitude on illegal immigration. It recognises that imperialism holds predominance in the world today as it did in the days when Stalin dreamed up the whole idea after the failure of the revolution in Germany in 1923. By cutting deals with the imperialists who threatened to invade the Soviet Union, Stalin promised that socialism would not spread beyond its borders. In order to demonstrate this and appease the imperialists, he systematically eliminated all communist opposition including most of the Bolshevik central committee. Any attempt outside of the Soviet Union to organise workers was crushed. Marxist internationalism was replaced by flag waving nationalism placed under a workers banner to sell the illusion to workers that they had strength against imperialism. Many in key positions in unions today still hold to this conservative idea, particularly in the NDU and AWU (Amalgamated Workers Union) where Stalinists and their social democratic lackeys still hold sway.
A recent internal memo distributed by the Amalgamated Workers’ Union dated March 2000 continues the nationalist line. It states "Remember every illegal immigrant who takes a job is prohibiting somebody you know from working…We must continue to pursue this matter in the interests of NZ workers." The AWU’s total defence of NZ workers hinges entirely on the 1987 Immigration Act which states that employers who knowingly employ illegal workers shall be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding NZ$2,000.
A paltry sum says the AWU. In fact the only thing paltry is its bureaucratic credibility when it fails to realise that by subordinating the unions struggle to a statute of bourgeois law it removes any pretence of being in charge of workers’ interests. The AWU bureaucrats rely upon the bosses’ state to defend "our" jobs from illegal aliens.
But to rely on the bosses to protect jobs puts one in the camp of the class enemy. To polarise workers around nationalism only serves to lend comfort to racists and bigots whose attacks on ‘legal’ immigrants have been on the increase in recent years. Fuelled by populist politicians like Peters and Prebble and the ratings driven tabloid media, the union bureaucrats have dragged themselves and the movement into the invidious position of being bedfellows with these low life reactionaries. The chauvinist defence of jobs and wages against foreign workers which relies on alliances with national bosses ultimately leads to wars were workers are sent to kill other workers in the interests of their bosses.
Without an international perspective and without support of the so-called ‘illegals’, the chance is lost for building sympathy and solidarity with foreign workers who are now all in the same global economy being exploited by the same multinational bosses. Solidarity with ‘illegal’ Asian workers in NZ could forge important links with the Asian masses are engaged in major struggles such as in China, Korea and Indonesia.
Bosses not workers cause low wages.
On the question of ‘illegals’ taking jobs and lowering wages and conditions, the bureaucratic line needs to be studied more closely. It turns out that it is not ‘illegal’ immigrants forcing down wages, but the failure of workers to join forces to stop the boss paying low wages that is the problem. Lets take the example of the market garden workers.
A former market garden worker recalls 20 years ago while working for one of the biggest vegetable growers in the Pukekohe region of South Auckland, wages and conditions were so low that most of the garden workers could not afford to pay even the minimum market rent for housing and so were forced to stay in company owned accommodation units on the garden work sites.
These dwellings were very often poorly maintained by the bosses whose only interest was to have a cheap workforce immediately on hand at short notice. At the time, with the exception of the boss and managerial staff, the vast majority of workers were Maori, but for the sake of argument, local. Their poor wages and conditions could hardly be blamed on ‘illegal’ immigrants. Poor wages and conditions have always existed in certain work sectors and always at the bottom end.
To fill the jobs at the bottom end bosses have historically had to rely on migrant workers who form a ‘reserve army of labour’ who are tapped into when needed and thrown on the scrap heap when surplus to requirements. 50 years ago it was Maori moving into the cities. 40 years ago it was Pacific Islanders looking for work. 20 years ago Maori working in the market gardens began to be replaced by seasonal and ‘illegal’ migrant workers. Today bosses are using ‘illegal’ migrants in the clothing and building industries because they are able to get away with paying low wages and bad conditions.
By employing workers from ‘third world’ or underdeveloped countries who do not meet the entry work requirements, bosses are able to use threats such as withholding passports to force them to work for low pay and substandard work and safety conditions. ‘Illegal’ workers are almost slaves as they have no normal rights as citizens. They are driven out of desperation to live and work under such conditions and cannot be the cause of any threat to NZ jobs, wages and conditions.
The AMU bureaucrats are right on one thing. A NZ$2000 fine is paltry compared with the large profit margins being made employing migrant workers. The bosses couldn’t care less about ‘illegal’ workers. Laws against foreign workers were enacted in the past by the bosses as part of deal with the unions where the bosses got industrial peace in return for keeping foreign workers out. This was the "White NZ" immigration policy that largely restricted official migration to skilled British workers.
Both unions and governments turned a blind eye to illegal migrants from the Pacific after World War 2 when jobs were plentiful, but when unemployment hit in the 1970’s both turned on these same migrants and labeled them ‘overstayers’. In other words the bourgeois state is forced to act on the issue of illegal migrants on pressure from the unions engineered by the union bureaucrats who play on workers fears that their jobs are under threat.
The situation got much worse under the ECA (Employment Contracts Act) of 1991 which had a huge impact on union membership driving it down to around 20% of the workforce. This has prompted a large part of what motivates the union bureaucrats drive against ‘illegals’. In order to show that it is fighting for the rights of local workers, it is running a campaign internally to encourage its members to act as eyes and ears against ‘illegals’, in the hope that the results would impress workers who are not members of unions to join up.
Work sites have been ‘targeted’ by unions who have called on their members to act as police spies reporting to immigration and police resulting in raids that have led to mass arrest of the ‘illegal’ workers, victims of the bosses. When occasionally the bosses are prosecuted this does not stop the practice. By using unionists in this way the bureaucrats are pitting local workers against foreign workers (‘illegals’) in support of the very state forces that have been, and will be again, used to crush workers struggles at home. This cynical attitude of the bureaucrats makes a mockery of the international workers slogan - "Workers of all countries unite!"
Because of its diminished support base, the union bureaucracy seeks to use its crude and underhand drive against ‘illegals’ to consolidate its position of privilege as the 'labour lieutenants' of the bosses by sacrificing the integrity of the workers’ movement. The rank and file must be made aware that what is being done in their name serves only to destroy them in the end. The NDU call last year to wage war on illegal workplaces in defence of ‘legitimate’ jobs in ‘legitimate companies’ backs the call that it supports an 'illegitimate' system.
This is part of the CTU "good boss/Bad boss" syndrome. But in reality the ‘sweatshop’ label being applied to the so-called illegal work places, should also be applied to the so-called ‘legitimate’ work places as local workers are forced to work longer hours for less pay by both NZ and foreign-owned companies. So while the bureaucrats set about looking for new definitions of legal and illegal workplaces, it is time for the rank and file to rise up and take their rightful place at the head of the workers’ struggle against the whole rotten system.
Workers answer to exploitation is international solidarity
At the dawn of a new century the rank and file must be made aware of the importance of their place in the international struggle in order to appreciate the need to support workers who have been labelled ‘illegal’ by the state and the union bureaucracy. Workers must debate among themselves the need to organise themselves into rank and file structures based on the principles of democracy and international solidarity.
This means that among the rank and file, the most lowly skilled worker has as much say during a debate or argument about union policy as the more highly skilled. This is on the clear understanding that the democratic decision arrived at on the basis of an informed vote must be accepted totally by all to ensure that the union acts as one to implement its policy.
The most fundamental groundwork of these structures has to take place on the worksite itself. Workers must organise to form a union were these do not exist and elect delegates who represent them and are held accountable to them. The delegates should be the best unionists with the ability to do the job well.
As communists we fight to get elected as delegates standing on a programme that links the unions to the struggle for socialism. This means that the site delegate must take responsibility to inform workers of the need for a revolutionary angle on all matters affecting workers' conditions, especially the world situation that for most workers don’t appear to play any part in their lives. By so doing, this raises the level of their international understanding, thus better preparing them for the task of international solidarity action in the event that should crises arise anywhere both here and abroad, the response would be immediate and automatic.
So while the delegate acts to represent the views of the rank and file, the delegate should also be prepared to act as a leader until the rank and file becomes more politically aware and eventually class conscious. The rank and file will then become actively part of the wider revolutionary movement. That is why Trotsky called the trades unions "schools for revolution".
In the meantime, the site delegate has the valuable task of making links with his or her counterpart in other worksites fighting for the rebuilding of the unions based on the principles of rank and file democracy and international solidarity. It is important to state that the rank and file movement is representative of ‘all’ workers irrespective of the industrial relations law which creates a charter for the union bureaucracy to exclude the rank and file (see article on the new Employment Relations Bill). This, and not any social democratic legislation, is the key to real workers strength in crushing the cycle of misery brought about by the capitalist system that has long outlived its use-by date.
The rank and file movement is a start to revolutionising the unions. There are signs that this has begun in Australia where some key positions in the Community and Public Sector Union (equivalent to the PSA) and the Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union, have been taken over by militants. But unless this movement is led by communist delegates around a revolutionary programme, it cannot hope to gain any significant strength beyond the laws of the land that it currently yields to. Yet it is a concrete first step that workers in Aotearoa/NZ can follow and eventually begin to make links with on the road to workers of all countries uniting in a new revolutionary communist international.
Designate all worksites as sweatshops.
No! to all anti-immigrant police raids.
For solidarity with all workers designated "illegal".
No! to the bosses’ immigration laws.
Workers of all countries unite.
Bolivia: Workers' and Farmers' Government is the only solution to neo-liberal destruction.
After fifteen years of neo-liberal 'structural adjustment' the workers and farmers of Cochabamba (Bolivia's
third largest city) refused to accept the privatisation of their water supply. They took to the streets, erecting
barricades, and were met by the army after a state of emergency was declared by President Banzer on April
8. In the struggles with the police and army at least 7 people have died. This insurrection is the latest in a
long line of mass marches, general strikes and revolutionary actions of the Bolivian labour movement in
response to the deepening destruction of the economy and their lives by imperialism. Class Struggle's sister
organisation Poder Obrero in Bolivia has been at the forefront of this struggle for fifteen years. Below we
reprint a report on the current situation in Bolivia in English and Spanish. Then follows a short account of the
struggle for a Workers' and Farmers' Government in Bolivia.
The State of Siege!
During seven days (4 to April 10) three mobilizations challenged the government of the General Banzer who
Mutiny of the Police
Approximately a month ago a group of Police declared a hunger strike in the Plaza 24 of September in the city
Total blockade of Cochabamba
As part of the neoliberal plan of the government handed over to a transnational company (Bechtels) control of Aguas del Tunari and the distribution of the water for the City of Cochabamba and the execution of the Project Misicuni. As with most of these privatised contracts, the water contract signed was disadvantageous for the population besides losing free access to Aguas del Tunari the new owner was interested not in investing a single dollar and the first thing they did was raise the price by 36%.
This contract was made with the complicity of the Civic Committee, that is supposed to defend the interests of Cochabamba. The government planned to approve a "Law of Water" by means of which Aguas del Tunari was now owned absolutely by the new transnational. This move enraged not only the peasants but also the small bourgeoisie of Cochabamba.
Before this happened, a Coordinating Committee (Coordinadora) for the Defense of the Water was formed and called for a blockade of streets and highways on February 3. The government responded with the brutal repression of the demonstrators and blockaders, who held out for for two days of violent confrontations in which many were injured on both sides. Before the gravity of the situation, the Church intervened and the government compromised to revise the contract with Aguas del Tunari.
The Coordinadora was given a time limit of 60 days to negotiate a new contract. However, during the negotiations, the Coordinadora was sold out by the Civic Committee which took over the negotiations with the government.
As a result the Coordinadora called for the blockade of streets and highways in the City of Cochabamba and the bordering provinces on April 4. This time the government did not attempt an outright repression of the mobilization and expected that the action of the Coordinadora would collapse by itself. However, after three days of action by the peasants, working, rural and middle classes, barricades were raised blocking access to all the streets and the highways into the city. Cochabamba was totally paralyzed and with that a great part of the country due to its strategic geographical situation as the link between the east with the altiplano and the South with the North of Bolivia. The government decided to negotiate and the Prefect Hugo Galindo informed that the
Blockade of Roads in the Altiplano
Responding to a call from the Union Confederation Unica of Industrial Peasants of Bolivia, peasants on Monday 3 began a peaceful blockade of the highways given access to the capital city of La Paz. With each day the blockades went grew in strength succeeding in isolating La Paz on Friday 7. The army intervened to raise the barricades. However, as soon as the soldiers went, the peasants returned to block the highways.
The State of Siege.
The growth of the intensity of these three actions began to challenge the state on the Thursday and Friday. Still without announcing officially the State of Siege, the government began to engage in open repression about midnight on Saturday 8. It entered the residences of leaders of the Coordinadora in Cochabamba, and arrested two leaders.
In La Paz it decided to intervene to stop hunger strike of the police sergeant and of the wives of police.
By Saturday 8 the situation was made worse for the government which announced the State of Siege at 9
In La Paz, each hour added more police to the hunger strike. Students and workers supported militantly the
At the same time, the government recognised by Saturday afternoon that the mobilization of Cochabamba was
Today, six days after the declaration of the State of Siege, it cannot be felt in the country. The blockades of
The mobilization of Cochabamba reached levels of a "pre-insurrection". The Coordinadora born in agreement
The Coordinadora achieved what nobody achieved since 1985: to force a retreat by the government in the
In protest against the state of siege, the COB (Bolivian Workers Federation) called for a 24 hour national strike
Last night the suspension of the state of siege was being discussed in the parliament. By one a.m Thursday the session had not ratified it. However, there is a general state of tension in the country. The situation is that that the economic crisis can produce more movements as that of Cochabamba and Achacachi.
Abajo del estado de sitio!
Durante siete días (4 al 10 de abril) tres movilizaciones pusieron en jaque al gobierno del General Banzer que se vió obligado a lanzar el estado de sitio: Amotinamiento de la Policía pidiendo aumento salarial Paro total y bloqueos en la ciudad de Cochabamba Bloqueo de Caminos en el Altriplano.
Amotinamiento de la Policía: Aproximadamente hace un mes un cabo de la Policía se declaró en huelga de
Paro total en Cochabamba
Como parte del plan neoliberal el gobierno había entregado a la transnacional "Aguas del Tunari" la
Esto motivo el descontento no solo de los campesinos sino de la pequeña burguesía de Cochabamba. Ante
A esta actitud el gobierno respondió con una brutal represión de los manifestantes y bloqueadores, quienes
Sin embargo, durante las negociaciones, la Coordinadora fue echada a un lado y el Comité Cívico jugo el
Bloqueo de Caminos en el Altiplano
Ante el llamado de la Confederación Sindical Unica de Trabajadores Campesinos de
Se lanza el estado de sitio
El crecimiento de la intensidad de estas tres acciones coincidieron peligrosamente el jueves y viernes. Aún sin
En La Paz decidió intervenir el piquete de huelga de hambre de la sargento de policía y de esposas de
El sábado 8 la situación se agravó para el gobierno y anunció el estado de sitio a las 9 de la mañana. Sin embargo, en Cochabamba no se había retirado una sola barricada y la población empezó a enfrentarse con la Policía y logró rebasarla. Así la Policía tuvo quereplegarse a sus cuarteles. Salió el ejército y también se enfrentó con los manifestantes hiriendo a 8 personas y matando a una.
En La Paz, cada hora se sumaban más policías al motín. Estudiantes y obreros apoyaron militantemente a los
Por otro lado, el gobierno comprendió un poco tarde que la movilización de Cochabamba era masiva y no la
Hoy a seis días de la dictación del Estado de Sitio, este no se siente en el país. Los bloqueos de caminos,
Balance y perspectivas
La movilización de Cochabamba alcanzó niveles pre insurreccionales. La Coordinadora nacida de acuerdos
La Coordinadora logró lo que nadie logró desde 1985: hacer retroceder al gobierno en la aplicación de la
En protesta por el estado de sitio, la COB convocó a un paro de 24 horas para ayer miércoles. Sin embargo,
Anoche la suspensión del estado de sitio se estaba discutiendo en el parlamento. Hasta la 1 de la manana
Poder Obrero 13 April 2000
The Struggle for Workers' and Farmers' Government.
Bolivia is a small, landlocked country on the high planes of the Andes between Peru on the West and Brazil,
During and after the Second World War when the US treated the whole of Latin America as its private
But despite the mass support for these Theses among the workers, when it came to the test in the revolution in
Poder Obrerotraces its origins back to the struggle to overcome this betrayal of the workers and peasants in
The fifteen years of neo-liberal imperialist attacks on Bolivia have proved that Trotsky's methods are correct. No
This has put Poder Obrero in opposition to both wings of the misleaders - the degenerated Trotskyists who still
This is the situation that faces Bolivia today. The poor peasantry is an explosive force, but it lacks direction.
In fact, it is obvious after the privatisations that forced 10's of thousands of peasants off their land, as well as
The only solution to a deteriorating slide into destruction as the imperialist MNC's, under the supervision of the
Forward to the Permanent Revolution!
Ministry of Economic Development
Anderton’s Rich Plans for the Poor.
The NZ Herald’s editorial and business columns and the weekly business papers National Business Review and Independent have all issued warnings about Jim Anderton’s new Ministry of Economic Development and his plan to spend $100 million on jobs in the regions over the next three years. Perhaps they fear this is the first step back on the Road to Serfdom (to loosely invoke Hayek’s attack on socialist planning). Such a fear is surely fanciful. Any vision the Alliance may have once had for a return to a state managed economy is no longer on the distant horizon. We argue that Anderton’s plan has to be put into the context of Labour’s economic policy of steadily prodding an efficient capitalist economy into sustained global competitiveness.
New Minister of Economic Development Jim Anderton’s development plan is no more than a patchup job to plug the holes in the social fabric that will widen as NZ’s economic performance suffers further from world market forces. The last 15 years have shown that the benefits that flow to big business have not trickled down to the bottom two thirds of society. We have a dual economy where the rich have developed expensive tastes for luxury town houses, cars and overseas villas, while the poor have sunk backwards into hardship and poverty.
Yet the Labour-Alliance Coalition is committed to broad policies that cannot reverse these trends. Indeed these will get worse as NZ becomes increasingly hostage to global multinationals and dependent upon the dollars of rich tourists and gamblers. So the $100 million devoted to 'economic development' is really the price of the Alliance’s loyalty to the Coalition’s broad economic policy over the term of the new government.
This is why Anderton’s plan will have little benefit for workers. Even if it were spent in one year $100 million would represent a tiny 0.03% of government spending; 0.04% of the social welfare budget; 7% of the unemployment benefit; and 70% of the interest on student loans. Therefore it does no more than target and redirect interest robbed from students to pay for job creation in the regions. It would be equivalent to taking $33.3m off the top heavy WINZ bureaucracy in each of the next three years and giving it to the bottom dwelling rural poor.
To that extent it is to be supported and encouraged. The slight prospect that unemployed could have a party at Christine Rankin's expense is not to be scoffed at. But to work as a real stopgap (i.e. to eliminate the gap between rich and poor, Maori and Pakeha etc) it would have to be much more and under the control of the local people. And that, it is clear, cannot happen under this government.
To neoliberal claim that the Plan is part of 'socialist conspiracy' and represents a threat to the market is out of touch with the recent global shift towards the "smart state". There is a worldwide ideological retreat from the raw market mechanisms towards a modest state-managed "third way" where the worst excesses of the market are modified by cosmetic social liberal (or Blairite) policies.
The writings of none other than finance speculator George Soros in his recent book The Crisis of Global Capitalism and prominent World Bank and IMF experts testify to this policy shift. It becomes all the more convincing however, when propounded by social democrats rather than speculators or Wall St. Capitalists have nothing to fear from this pale pink-green shadow of once were state socialists. They have been co-opted down the Blairite road. The reality is that the market cannot provide full employment and those in work will not elect governments that tax them to fund the welfare of those who are not.
The answer surely is a shorter working week currently being implemented by the French Government and being advanced by major unions in Australia. A policy of work sharing without loss of pay would be a test of the new right dogma that the market is the best mechanism for social development. Job sharing on a living wage could potentially eliminate unemployment and the scourges of poverty, most crime and social destruction. It would achieve the dream of the new right of making dependence on the state redundant. There would be no need for social welfare or development planning. People would not resent paying taxes for social investment in health and education etc.
Yet it is obvious from the experience of France and Australia that employers do not want to cut hours without cutting pay. They insist that their right to maximum profits come before the needs of those who are prepared to work productively for 35 or 36 hours for a living wage. They have therefore mobilised their forces to reverse any shift towards further reduced working hours if it increases their costs.
The results of such ongoing social experiments in job sharing make the issue very clear. The problem is not a workshy ‘underclass’ dependent on state welfare, or any threat posed by pale pink attempts to spend money on patchup policies. These are symptoms of the real problem. The real problem is with those who will not share the wealth produced in society to create jobs at a living wage, but rather accumulate this wealth as their own private income widening the gaps between rich and poor. The only way that real social development can occur today is to socialise the means of production and plan the economy to meet the needs of all.
Join the Shorter Working Week Campaign: htpp://www.oocities.org/shorterworkweek/
For Workers and Students control of Education!
Who Owns the Universities?
The neo-liberal attacks on the universities in the last decade were designed to make them more responsive to the market and less of a drain on profits. User pays fees was the mechanism to link demand for courses that would supply well trained workers ripe for exploitation in the new global economy.
The Labour/Alliance government has washed its hands of free education since it has made no commitment to stopping student loans. Its broad economic policy is not to raise taxes on the rich so it has accepted that students must pay at least the current level (25%) of their education costs.
Labour rejects taking back public ownership of the universities. Its model of governance recently outlined by the Minister for Tertiary education, Steve Maharey, in setting up the Tertiary Education Advisory Commission (TEAC), is to allow the universities to function as arms-length SOE type institutions, run by boards representing stakeholders such as Maori, teachers and students as well as government and business.
The problem is that under this model of goverance, the universities, already largely controlled by business interests (in terms of the backgrounds and interests of the CEO’s and Council members), will continue to be dominated by the private sector dedicated to production of knowledge as commodities in the marketplace.
This means that the effects of the recent reforms of education becoming more elitist, of a teaching and research brought into line with market demand, along with threats to academic freedom, will get worse. The recent Savage Report on Academic Freedom makes it clear that both big business and big government are threats to academic freedom.
The only way to reverse this situation is to mobilise students and teachers to campaign for a return to public control of education and for a return to fully funded public education to serve the needs of coming generations for an increased scientific and general education. Despite, and because of, NZ’s fragile and dependent economy, there is a need for growing numbers of young people to go onto tertiary education to create the knowledge base for future social development. These young people need both a technical and a liberal arts education to allow them to make informed judgements about social policy. Older people also need life-long education.
The only way that these students will get the education they need is for students and staff (along with central government) to take back the real ownership and governance of the universities. And this will not happen unless staff and student unions unite and mobilise around a campaign for free universal tertiary education. While students and staff have taken a battering over the last decade, and many either look to the new Labour/Alliance Government to help them out or retreat into passivity, it is necessary to revive student and staff unions to take combined action.
Despite the ECA, staff unions have managed to hold onto some ground during the last ten years. They can expect some minor improvements in the new ERA that will provide more legal support for unions. But these alone will be no guarantee of reviving the unions. Rank and file activists need to spearhead a movement for free universal tertiary education and take it to the rest of the members.
Similarly, while student unions have come under right wing attack, with Auckland, Waikato and several polytechs losing compulsory unionism, the student movement remains a basis for rebuilding a powerful nationwide body of student activists who can unite with teachers. To reclaim the movement from right-wing executives like Waikato and Auckland, a rank and file movement needs to be built around the EAG’s for a return to compulsory unionism, and for a fighting, democratic national union.
At present there are groupings of activists such as Fightback! that are the core of a potentially powerful student unionism but these groups need to be clear on their objectives. Fightback! at the moment is a loose national grouping of several hundred students. But it is dominated by the Socialist Workers' Organisation (SWO), which has a policy of hyper activism expressed as occupations of university buildings to force university adminstrations to cut fees etc.
The problem with this is that the SWO is subordinating what is a united front for free education to its own politics and using its numbers and the influence of outside observers to dominate decision making. This is a shame because the SWO is a fundamentally undemocratic organisation run from the top. This fact of life becomes obvious to the majority of its members sooner or later, but at the expense of much personal grief (see box on the SWP and "Socialism from Below").
What is needed is a renewed student left in the student union at each of the tertiary institutions, that can fight to reclaim the union, and strengthen the national union as part of a combined campaign for free, universal education. A start to that end, would be the constitution of Fightback! as a left caucus of the student unions, and its decisions made with the democratic participation of all political groups.
A revival of a militant staff and student unionism would be the spearhead of a social movement to take back education and put it under the management and control of workers and students.
For Free and Universal Tertiary Education!
Socialist Workers and "Socialism from Below".
What sort of internal life might we expect such an organisation to have if it stands for 'Socialism from below'? We might expect the following as a (very) bare minimum:
These points are actually demands taken from a document produced in July 1994 by people who had been expelled from the SWP (the ISG). They described life in the SWP as follows:
"The leaderships' control of the party is unchecked by the members. New perspectives are initiated exclusively by the Central Committee (CC) who implement their perspective against all party opposition, implicit or explicit, legitimate or otherwise.
Once a new perspective is declared a new cadre is selected from the top down. The CC select the organisers who select the district and branch committees - any elections that take place are carried out on the basis of 'slates' so that it is virtually impossible for members to vote against the slate proposed by the leadership.
"...district committees are appointed rather than elected; the CC monopolise all information concerning the party, so that it is impossible for members to know much about what happens in the party outside their own branch"
"...conferences have no democratic function, but serve only to orientate party activists to carry out perspectives drawn up before the delegates even set out from their branches. At every level of the party, strategy and tactics are presented from the top down, as pre-digested instructions for action"
These criticisms make it clear that the decision making structures of the SWP sharply follow a 'Socialism from above' model. A model is so complete that even discussion is impossible without the leadership’s approval.
This group also demanded "The right for members to communicate horizontally in the party, to produce and distribute their own documents."In August of 1995 the SWP leadership in Britain banned SWP members from an email list set up by members of the SWP's international tendencies. They were banned from communicating horizontally with other members of these groups and instead told "...that debate takes place through the party branches and at national meetings and conferences".
In 1991 dissidents in Southampton SWP asked "When was the last time a motion or slate to conference was opposed?" and pointed out "The CC usually stays the same or changes by one member. None of the CC's numerous decisions made over the preceding year are challenged or brought to account". "...the framework for discussion is set by the CC. The agendas at national events... are set by the CC or its appointees and are never challenged…"
In an interview in the British Socialist Worker in January 1993 Tony Cliff interpreted the failure of the miners struggle against pit closures not on what ideas were influencing the class, or even the level of militancy but on how many people had joined the SWP in the week before! He said:
"Imagine if we had 15,000 members...and 30,000 supporters...socialists could have taken 40 or 50,000 people to parliament...the Tory MP's wouldn't have dared vote with Michael Heseltine. The government would have collapsed".
This idea of the size of the party as being the sole measure of success or failure has nothing in common with 'Socialism from below'. This attitude is why the SWP runs front organisations designed to recruit people into the party.
The largest of these in recent years has been the ANL (Anti-Nazi League) and the way the party leadership related to this was described by the ISG as "...the party has run the ANL purely as a satellite of the SWP. Local ANL work is organised from SWP branches... In the conference discussion period of 1993 comrades were instructed to make sure that the SWP branches alone organise all ANL work."
This is an international pattern, the ANL in Ireland never had meetings where its membership could decide what its priorities or tactics should be. In 1994 a split from the German SAG not only described party conferences as "not exercises in democracy but rallies where the leadership hector the faithful into higher level of activity". But also that the German IS group runs a "tiny anti-fascist alliance consisting of SAG comrades, and treats them like a satellite organisation".
"Anyone who has been a member of the Irish SWP for more then a couple of months will be aware of these problems. Many join the SWP every year but only a small minority of the organisation remain members beyond six months, the lack of 'Socialism from below' in all aspects of the Parties activity may be the main reason for this. And many of those who leave, do so convinced that 'Socialism from below' is an empty slogan?"
[Borrowed from an anarchist site lost somewhere in cyberspace]
Argentina: Workers' Rights in the Sights of the New Government.
In 1950 Argentina was a country whose living standards were only surpassed by the USA, Canada, Britain and Sweden. Meanwhile it has slipped back to third world standards. Is there any chance that the newly elected government will lead the country out of its crisis and realise the long prized ‘take off'? If not, are there any alternatives outside the game of the bourgeois parties? A.Holberg talked to Daniel Bengoechea, responsible for international relations in the ‘Revolutionary Workers Party' (POR) of Argentine.
A.H.: There is a new government in Argentina since Dec. 10th 1999. It is a coalition government made up of the Unión Cívica Radical (Radical Civic Union) and the center leftist Frepaso (Front for a Solidary Country) which has supplanted the Peronist Menem government. Why was this party beaten at the polls?
D.B.: The main facts that determined the Peronists failure were: a) The disappointment of the working class and the middle-class with the former government due to the pauperisation of the living standard, that happened as consequence of the economic governmental policies, and with the corruption that existed.
A.H.: What economical and social situation has Fernando de la Rúa found when he took office?
D.B.: At the moment that De la Rúa was elected Argentine was embedded in a dramatic economical and social situation. The state was (and still is) in bankruptcy, the foreign debt has risen to levels that make it impossible to pay it, the country suffered a deep recession, and unemployment has reached the 20%, a record for our country. Even worse, exports are falling due to the decrease of the price of the raw materials and the economic crisis of Brazil, one of Argentina's most important buyers, as a result of which we cannot expect anything but a worsening of the situation.
A.H.: Has he any policies different from Menem's to offer?
D.B.: Unfortunately not. De la Rua is following the some economic policies as Menem. In fact, some key positions of the new government are filled with members of Menem's government (e.g. the actual minister of education was Menem's viceminister of economy). De la Rua will undertake the privatisation of the state-owned means of production and the public services. In addition, he has increased the VAT, taxed the private medical insurancies (in Argentine most of the people, including a large part of the working class, relay on the private system), raised the price of fuels and is putting limits on the levels of public spending and increasing hostile actions against the working class. This involves the casualisation of the workforce, attacks on the right to organise and on labour cost, the deepening of the liberalisation of markets, and a cutting in the subsidies to the poorest provinces.
At present the government is trying to pass a new labour-bill through Parliament. Even Menem did not undertake such a bitter attack against the workers. This law signifies a huge attack against labour rights. i.e.
(1) up to now the Unions include all the workers of the same industrial branch . From now on the unions will be made up only of the workers of the same company. Then, we will have thousands of small unions with no power to fight against the bosses.
(2) up to now, when a contract was not agreed between the union and the employers all the rights of the workers had to be maintained and the salary increased according to inflation until agreement is reached. From now on, if there is no agreement the employers can unilaterally establish the new contract.
(3) up to now, the unions could call a strike when they wanted. From now on, they will have to ask in advance for permission from the Government. Some branches, such as transport, are not going to be allowed any more to do a complete strike. They will have to provide at least half of the normal service. Then, to make a strike will be very difficult.
(4) up to now, there was no probationary period for the new employees. Now it will be a one year period. During this time the employees cannot be members of any union. This will mean a huge increase of casual work.
These are only the most obvious bad aspects of this law. According to the government, the aim of this law is to reduce the labour costs in order to make the Argentinean economy more competitive. The national union (Confederación General del Trabajo) has called for a demonstration in the historical Plaza de Mayo in front of the government house in order to stop this law. They do not call for a strike because the are afraid to start a big fight at national level when nobody knows where it can end. They say this in the mass media in order to put the government under pressure. They do this because the labour bureaucracy does not want to lose its privileges that for sure are also going to be affected by this labour reform.
Finally, in order to avoid demonstrations against its policies, the government is increasing its repression. In fact, this has been already shown only two weeks after taking office. When facing great demonstrations in the north-eastern province of Corrientes, where the people had blockaded the most important roads, the new government attacked them with the gendarmerie. The repression was lead by a former member of the last dictatorship's special repression corps and brought as a consequence the assassination of two persons.
A.H.: So why did parts of the bourgeoisie and of the masses opt for such a change?
D.B.: The ruling class chose De la Rua and not Duhalde because Peronism, after 10 years in the government, was not able to keep the working and the middle class under control. With the change of government they can now pass several bitter measures that Menem was not able to pass in the last years. This is because the masses still believe in bourgeois democracy. They still hope that a change in the government could be positive. You know, they say "let us now give the other party a chance". The middle class supported De la Rua because in Menem's government there was too much corruption. They believe that the problems of the country can be solved with a more efficient administration. The mass media push this idea. You know, "the system is good, the problems are some politicians".
Only a minority of the working class broke its loyalty to Peronism. Most of them voted no confidence, or to the left or to the far right. Note that voting is compulsory in Argentina. Another important fact is that Menem was the person charged with making a crude reform of the economy. This was done without taking care of the formalities. I mean, Menem went over the head of Parliament and the Courts whenever he thought he needed to do so. Because of this, a sector of the masses stopped trusting in the democratic game and started to use direct action methods to fight for their demands. At this moment, the ruling class needs another kind of politician who will be charged with restoring the consensus so that they can finish the work started by Menem.
A.H. Under Peron Peronism was a populist and very popular current in post-war Argentinean history. What is the difference between present-day Peronism and the historical version? Why did it develop in the way it did?
D.B.: Regarding your questions, first I want to make clear that Peronism is still a very popular current with a large influence within the working class. In the last poll it got 40% of the votes, which is its historical minimum. Yet this party remains the largest. In addition, Peronism kept control of more than 60% of the provincial governments. Then I would say that Peronism was the party that, in a given historical moment and representing a sector of the Argentinean bourgeoisie, supported an industrialisation program and tried to develop a national capitalist system economically independent of the imperialist countries. In order to do this, given the particular conditions of the post war Peron gave a lot of benefits to the working class.
Peron's success was based on the following facts. During WWII Argentine provided meat, grain, oil, etc to both sides involved in it. In addition, these countries were not able to provide Argentine with manufactures. As a consequence, a lot of capital entered the country and a national industry was developed with the help of the state. In fact, all the strategic sectors - I mean coal, oil, steel, chemical products, transport, ships, etc. and at some point partially the production of cars - were under the control of the state. In Peron's own words the central bank was so full of gold that you could not walk inside it.
However, from the very begining, it was clear that Peronism could not be successful in the long run in its attempt, since, as was scientifically established by Lenin and Trotsky and verified by the class struggle during the present century, in the present epoch of decay (where capitalism's tendencies toward concentration and centralisation of production have reached the point of monopolisation) the fight for national independence from imperialism and for socialism must take the same road.
As Peronism was and is a bourgeoisie current, socialism has always inspired in it mistrust. In fact, by the end of the second government of Peron (1955), he himself took several measures that were opposed to the interests of the working class, and during his third government (1973-74) he turned completely against the workers and played directly a pro-imperialist role. Of course, up to this moment, there was never a government so pro-imperialist and anti-worker as the Menem government. It has destroyed completely the Argentinean economy, inclusively in some way the national bourgeoisie is close to disappearring. Nevertheless, there is no contradiction between the role played by Menem during the last ten years and the historical origin of Peronism.
The evolution of Peronism reflects the evolution of the economy. Due to the capitalist economical laws, the economical dependence of the native bourgeoisie to the imperialism has been deepened year after year. Because of this, the parties who represent this class are becoming more and more pro-imperialist. And this is not a particular phenomenon of Argentine, it is what happened in the whole Latin America. The evolution of the APRA in Peru, the MNR in Bolivia, the PRI in Mexico, etc. resembles that of Peronism. To summarise, what I mean is that at the present moment the existence of an economical independent native bourgeoisie in any underdeveloped country is impossible, and therefore it is impossible for the parties that represent this class, including Peronism, to develop any other policy than a pro-imperialist one.
A.H.: What happens at the front of the class struggle?
D.B.: During the last years the masses have developed a permanent struggle against the governmental economical policies, in defence of employment, health, the education, etc. However these fights had to face two important drawbacks. The first one is that most of the unions and mass organisations are controlled by a bureaucracy that is loyal either to Peronism or to the actual government. This bureaucracy only takes care of its own interests and does not want to centralise and politicise the fights and declare a national strike since it is afraid of losing the control over the mass movement. The second one is that in those places were the masses broke with their bureaucratic leadership the fights had an empirical and spontaneous character and the masses organise themselves only at a rank and file level. Basically because of these two facts there has been in the last years hundred of partial struggles that remained isolated among themselves. Of course, the left, mainly the reformist left, which only thinks in electoral terms, has some responsibility since it has not been able to organise the spontaneous tendency for a national political strike that is present within the workers movement and the rest of the oppressed sectors of the population.
A.H.: The Argentinean left used to be rather powerful in the past and had to be bloodily suppressed by the military. What is the situation now? Which ones are the most powerful organisations and what are their political lines?
D.B.: The military coup of 1976 was principally not directed against the left parties but against the vanguard of the working class and some intellectual sectors with the aim of preventing a revolutionary development of the political crisis which confronted the reactionary Peronist government headed by Isabel Peron (widow of Peron, elected Vice-President in 1973, who took possession of the government after Peron's dead). Of course, most of the left parties were affected by the brutal repression carried out by the military. In spite of this, at the first moment, some of them, as the Communist Party (Partido Comunista, PCA) and the pseudo-Trotskyist former Workers Socialist Party (Partido Socialista de los Trabajadores, PST), gave their critical support to the military government.
Since the return of the democratic governments, there has not been a deep examination within the left of the policies that they developed during the sixties and seventies. All of them agree that the military coup was a pro-imperialist one directed against the working class. However, most of them (including those who practiced the guerrilla methods) do not recognise that the Popular Front and the class collaboration policies that they developed, paved the way to the defeat suffered by the working class. Because of this, at this moment most of them practice a reformist policy and pay more attention to the electoral game than to what happens with the true class struggle on the streets.
Among these forces, the largest ones are the United Left (Izquierda Unida), a front between the Communist Party and the pseudo-Trotskyst Socialist Workers Movement (Movimiento Socialista de los Trabajadores, MST), the pseudo-trotskyist Workers Party (Partido Obrero, PO) and Workers Party for Socialism (Partido de los Trabajadores por el Socialismo, PTS), the Guevarist Free Homeland (Patria Libre, CPL), and the Maoist Party of the Work and the People (Partido del Trabajo y el Pueblo, PTP).
All of them are small organisations as compared with those before the dictatorship. In fact, they as a whole (with the exception of the PTP which did not take part on the last elections because its tailism of the "progressive" bourgeoisie who are engaged in De la Rua's Alianza), in spite of their opportunistic policies, got only 2.5% of the votes in the last elections. Our party, the Revolutionary Workers Party (Partido Obrero Revolucionario, POR), believes that at this moment, these forces act objectively as an auxiliary of the ruling class and are the main obstacle to the political independence of the working class.
Regarding our party, we are a small Troskyist organisation with some influence within the working class and the students. We are broadly respected within the vanguard, basically because during our more than 10 years of existence we have always fought to organise and educate the vanguard layers of the working class and for the reconstruction of the Fourth International, the world party of the socialist revolution. We distinguish ourselves from all other left organisations because our action is always directed, over all, to developed the revolutionary proletarian consciousness with the aim of strengthening the proletarian vanguard. In contrast with the bulk of the remaining left groups we always fought against the betrayals of those who presently lead the workers organisations and the rest of the oppressed movement. In addition, we always say the truth to the masses, we never use ambiguous formulae like "the people's government" in order to not frighten the masses.
Maybe some other groups can also subscribe these statements, but not all of them, e.g. some of them never say that they want to establish a Proletarian Dictatorship. However, the main differences appear in practice. We have never made an electoral block with bourgeois forces as Izquierda Unida has. We have never made a front with far right nationalist (because they also fight against imperialism) as Patria Libre and PTP did in previous elections (not the last one).
We have never made common lists with sectors of the labour bureaucracy in order to lead a union as all of them, with the exception of PTS, usually do. And I hope we will never do such things. With PTS our main differences arise because they adapt their politics in order not to frighten the middle class (basically students) that support them. In addition, they always direct their action to pressure the democratic institutions (Parliament, Justice, etc.). As a complement of this, on the international situation they are always ultra-leftist. Nevertheless, we do a lot of practical work together with the other left forces. Finally, you should note that the rest of the parties do not have a written program. This for us is a clear sign of their centrism. The fact that they do not have a program allows the possibility to make all the manoeuvres they need in order to strengthen their apparatuses without taking care of the contradictions.
The difference between us and the rest of the left is also recognised by our own bourgeoisie, which has banned us. The POR is banned because its foundational statement is not in agreement with the Political Parties Statute (Estatuto de los Partidos Politicos). This law was established by the last military dictatorship and has not been modified. According to the attorney in charge of our cause, our party cannot be judicially recognised because there are some points of our foundational document (Acta Fundacional - Declaracion de Principios) which contradict the above mentioned statute.
These points are the following: we do not recognize the right to private property of the means of production and do not condemn the use of the violence as a means to change the actual bourgeoisie order; because we say that we want to establish a Proletarian Dictatorship; because we explicitly say that the bourgeois democracy is only a particular form of the capital dictatorship; and because we do not agree to give the state a list with the names, addresses, etc of all the members of our party. All the left parties which take part in the elections have fulfilled all the requirements of such a reactionary statute. We believe that you cannot have two statutes, one for internal use and another for the public. This is mere centrism. The ban does not only affect the elections, according to it POR is an illegal organisation. Being a member of it is punishable.
Maybe, what I am saying might sound a little bit sectarian to someone. However, our practice is completely against sectarianism since we remain always very close to the masses and practice United Front tactics whenever is possible, without any kind of prejudices, with the aim of winning the best of the working class for the Communist Program which represents the proletariat's historical interests. In any case, if somebody is sectarian within the Argentinean left, these are some of the reformist groups that I have mentioned above, who with the aim of winning more votes have betrayed the working class on more than one opportunity. If you take a look to our journal, Masas, and compare it with the journals of the rest of the left you will see clearly who is sectarian. Let me give you some examples of the difference between our work and that of some other organisations:
During the last US bombing against Iraq we organised demonstrations and made a common statement together with PTS. During the Kosovo war we organised demonstrations together with most of the left groups, including the Maoist PTP.
Four years ago when some union militants, including members of our party but basically people from MAS, were prosecuted for occupying Neuquén (south east province) government house we launched an international campaign in defense of them together with MAS and PTS.
We take part on the "Tendencia de Estudiantes Revolucionarios por el Socialismo" (TERS). This mass organisation is composed also by independent students who claim themselves to be socialist but are not members of any party. The TERS played an important role last year in the student fight to defend free public education. TERS supports a revolutionary program and tries to keep the student movement very close to the working class.
Of course we work in deep contact with the human rights movement and in particular with Madres de Plaza de Mayo. At this moment, we are co-organising a demonstration for March 24 (day of the last military coup). We play an important role in "Trabajadores de la Salud", an organisation that unites workers of the public health sector. In addition, members of our party have led the fight in defence of PAMI (retired workers social security). In those factories where we have a militant we try to develop class organisations with the aim of fighting the union bureaucracy and defending the day to day interests of the workers.
Now, the typical behaviour of some other parties is as follows: PTP and CPL always support the left sector of Peronism in the unions because "they are the most progressive". They have stopped several strikes because they do not want to lose the trust of the left bureaucracy. In the student movement they share the direction of the student union with the Alianza. They want to win power from inside the system. The PTP defends Pinochet, their argument being that with the imprisonment of Pinochet in Europe the imperialist countries once more violate the sovereignty of an underdeveloped country like Chile. MST and PC are the same (with the exception of the Pinochet example). In some cases they also make common blocks with the church and of course they make electoral fronts with bourgeois parties. PO and PTS are "less reformist" but they always split the working movement if they cannot lead it. They are never able to find a common position and will call to split activities in order to show which has the most powerful apparatus. All this reaches absurdity when they beat each other up for their political differences. They have done this at several occasions in student and workers meetings and in public demonstrations. Right now, PO is taking a legal case against MST and CPL because members of these parties beat up PO militants.
A.H.: It is often argued that the impact of the fascist military coups with their national-security policies has traumatised the working class so much that they do not want to hear of any revolutionary politics any more. There were 30,000 desaparecidos (dissappeared) and dead people. (This are a minority since the military only recognise as dead the persons who died fighting them in armed confrontation). Thousands of persons were in jail and several thousands went into exile. Most of the affected were rank and file members of the workers movement (in particular those related to the so-called ‘Sindicalismo clasista' - classist unions -), persons related to the guerrilla or members of the ‘Montoneros' (left sector of the Peronism who also developed the guerilla tactic). The Communist Party had some 100 desaparecidos among its members, and Moreno's PST about 50. Is this really a factor for the organisational and political development of the left?
D.B.: I do not believe that this is the case. In fact, the Argentinean working class has been developing many important fights since the last years of the dictatorship. The Ford factory in Pacheco (Buenos Aires) was occupied during two months at the beginning of the 80’s. It was recovered only by means of the army. During 1987 the teachers struck for more than 70 days fighting for an increase in their salary. And teachers from all over a country held a demonstration with about 200,000 persons in Buenos Aires. This event is known as the "Marcha Blanca" (because the teachers in Argentine wear a white apron, like the physicians in hospitals). In 1989 there was a national uprising. The workers took over factories, the students occupied the universities, and the masses looted the shops. The only way to stop it was the resignation of former president Alfonsin. During the last 20 years, there were about 20 national general strikes (which we call ‘huelga general', it means that all the branches of industry and transport strike on the same day). Last year an uprising took place in Corrientes. In the previous years it happened the same way in the provinces of Santiago del Estero, Neuquén, Tucumán, etc.
These fights, in spite of their defensive character, show that the working class is not demoralised. On the contrary, the daily work of our party, the Revolutionary Workers Party (POR), shows us that great layers of vanguard workers are receptive to socialist ideas. In order to understand the fact that the workers' vanguard is not organised within a party that defends socialist ideas we have to go backwards and speak once more about the reformist left. The role played by this left, with its opportunistic policies, and the defeats it has led, means the masses not to trust in them. Such a left, and not the fact that the working class does not want to listen about revolutionary policies, is the main obstacle to overcome in Argentina in order to advance in the fight for Socialism.
A.H.: How then do you explain that after ten years you are still a relatively small party?
D.B.: The fact that the masses do not come over us in large numbers is not a problem for us alone but a world problem. During the last decades the working class and the rest of the masses at world level have suffered many defeats because of their counter-revolutionary leaderships. Then, before they can follow a new direction they need to test it in practice. This is a long process that cannot be shortened by an act of will alone. Nevertheless, after the confusion brought about by the fall down of Stalinism more and more vanguard militants want to know about revolutionary ideas. In our case, we note it because more people are reading our journal ‘Masas' and our materials, and more people are taking part on our activities. In addition, normal workers are more open to listen to us. However, as history shows us, the working class will go en masse to a revolutionary party only in a revolutionary situation. Before this only the proletarian vanguard, showing the way for the masses, will be organised in such a party, which we are struggling to build.
 Peron was president from 1946 to 1952. Then he was re-elected with more of 50% of the votes. He could not finish his second government because of the military coup d'état. In 1973 after several years under a ban Peronism was allowed to take part on the elections as a way to stop the rise of the class struggle and the increasing sympathy of the masses towards the guerrilla. In that situation, the Peronist Hector Campora was elected president. After three months in the government he called new elections. In that case, Peron took part on them. He got 63% of the votes. Then he started his third period in 1973 but he died in 1974.
At the end of the military dictatorship this party changed its name into ‘Movement towards Socialism' (Movimiento al Socialismo,MAS). After it built an electoral block with the CP. One of its members was elected into Congress. He was the only ‘Trotskyist' MP in the whole history of Argentina. Thereafter this party split into several parts. At present the biggest ones are the ‘Socialist Workers Movement (MST) and the ‘Workers Party for Socialism (PTS).
The POR can be contacted at <http://www.oocities.org/pormasas/ and <email@example.com. The web site has documents in Spanish, Portuguese and English. E-Mails can be answered in German too.
The Legacy of Stalinism in Russia today.
Among the debates taking place in Russia today about reviving Marxism is a debate about the legacy of Stalinism. We take the view that not until Russian workers reject the material basis of Stalinism can they form a new vanguard capable of leading a new October. We reprint here two responses to the work of A.B Razlatsky, a "Marxist" with some influence on the Russian left. The first responds to his defence of Stalinism. The second responds to his rejection of the Leninist party in his document "The Second Communist Manifesto".
The following article is a response to a document: "Notes from the Margins of History" by A.B. Razlatsky written in 1989. It was posted to the Iskra list from the Proletarism list that is dedicated to Razlatsky’s ‘Marxism’. The ‘proletarism’ list describes itself thus:
"Greetings from the banks of the Volga! Here discussions will go on about strikes, revolution, about a proletarian party, and most importantly - about Marxist theory; especially about the contributions of A. B. Razlatsky to this theory. We invite you to subscribe. This list is run by the Samara Strike Committee and the Party of Proletarian Dictatorship (Russia) for the purpose of spreading truthful information about the working class struggles in Russia and as a forum for discussing problems facing the proletariat of Russia and other countries in their struggle to overthrow the bourgeois society."
The problem is that Razlatsky’s piece defends Stalinism in a fatalist/pragmatic way at the expense of Bolshevism and Trotskyism. Therefore, in our view it is no basis on which to rebuild workers’ power in Russia and to fight for a New October and must be subjected to "ruthless criticism".
We begin with some lengthy quotes from Razlatsky’s article, with a few comments interspersed, and then conclude with a short rejoinder.
Razlatsky on Stalinism
Razlatsky makes the case for Stalin as a materialist, a lesser figure than Lenin but the most suited to follow him since Trotsky et al were not "materialists". As we hope to show this is the ‘great man’ theory of history tacked onto a stagist conception of Russia evolving from feudalism and reproducing its state forms as ‘bureauracy’ and ‘totalitarianism’. Thus against this fatalist historic course, Ratzlatsky argues that Stalin did fulfil his historic task, albeit with major mistakes and deviations.
Razlatsky first establishes Stalin’s credentials as the only possible heir of Lenin on the basis of Lenin’s own judgement of Stalin. And Lenin is not to be questioned:
"In his "Letter to the Congress," Lenin remarks in passing on the shortcomings and sometimes on the merits of six leaders. Relations between Stalin and Trotsky he saw as the possible source of a split. Hence, Lenin had already assumed that, although for the time being it was scarcely noticeable, Stalin was supported by no less important a section of the party than that that followed the more widely known Trotsky. Or, perhaps it was not in Stalin and Trotsky themselves that the point lay, but in the bolshevism of Stalin and the non-bolshevism of Trotsky?
The bolshevism of Stalin is nowhere called into question in the letter. But let us take a look at the shortcomings that Lenin saw in Stalin. Would he be able to use the power of General Secretary with sufficient caution? Stalin was too crude, and this shortcoming was intolerable in the post of General Secretary. And obliquely; he demanded a General Secretary differing from Stalin in having "only one advantage, namely, more tolerant, more loyal, more attentive to the comrades, less capricious etc." But all this appears in the context of the possibility of a split; "this is no trifle, or is a trifle that can assume a decisive significance."
There are no doubts about the bolshevism of Stalin here, nor, it is true apparently, a confirmation either. Except for one thing, were it not for his crudeness Lenin would have found Stalin entirely suitable for the post of General Secretary, the General Secretary of the Leninist bolshevik party. But Trotsky was not suitable; it never entered Lenin's head to avoid the split by entrusting "unlimited authority" to the hands of Trotsky. Although he considered Stalin and Trotsky, to an equal extent, to be the "two most outstanding leaders of the present CC." Nor did Lenin consider any of the other leaders that the party possessed at the time, whom he listed and discussed in the letter, to be suitable.
Why? Lenin was a materialist thinker. In putting before a meeting of the CC any particular question, Lenin always knew that the decision would be taken in accordance with historical necessity. The details apart, regarding the form of activity, everything had to be decided according to the opinion of the majority, for it would fall to them to act. When Lenin gave someone a mission, he foresaw the results of activity in all possible variants. And he foresaw the sum of the results of all activity, taking into consideration the general picture.
Neither Trotsky, nor Zinoviev, Kamenev or Bukharin were materialist thinkers. Concerning Pyatakov, it is true, I cannot confidently make such a judgement as the result of lack of sufficient familiarity with his activities. But this changes nothing. All of them successfully worked under the leadership of Lenin. This was no accident. Lenin placed and directed them into the specific conditions in which their specific capabilities acquired the highest efficiency. And it was no accident that they loved Lenin; this was the subconscious confirmation that the Leninist mission brought them more success and satisfaction than their own self-direction would have.
Clearly, this quality of Lenin's; the continuous correlation of logic, science and experience with the specific time and circumstances, with the specific talents and possibilities of people, conferred on the party that particularity that is called bolshevism. Consider for example Julii Martov, or equally Trotsky, both repeatedly discovered remarkable, theoretical treasures; however the ability to correlate these with the actual course of social development was possessed neither by the one nor by the other.
Of all of Lenin's circle, of all the highest echelons of the party leadership, only one man was worthy of comparison to Lenin in this regard; Stalin. Stalin was a materialist thinker. Stalin could lead the party and the state through the difficulties and surprises of this period of its establishment. But Stalin could not replace Lenin.
It seems to me that, at the start, Stalin very much avoided the limelight. He waited; suppose, after the liberation from the tutelage of Lenin, that someone with the gift of materialist thinking, had broken through. Clearly, under good leadership, people capable of and incapable of such thinking are practically indistinguishable... Had such persons appeared Stalin would have been their reliable support; people with materialist thinking easily come to a mutual understanding. Perhaps I am wrong and Stalin never had such a hope. He clearly had the opportunity to evaluate many people in the debates over the Brest peace. Whatever the case, whether a little sooner or a little later, it became clear to Stalin that taking full and complete responsibility had fallen to him
Having argued for Stalin as Lenin’s only feasible successor, Razlatsky then goes on to justify Stalin’s organisational methods to defend the ‘socialist system’. That is, he credits Stalin with continuing the dictatorship of the proletariat in the transition between capitalism and communism:
"This is usually considered to be the start of the period of Stalin's battle for unlimited personal power, and from the foregoing point of view, for full control over the situation and the development of events. Was such complete control needed, and more to the point, the personal control of one man? Was it not more important to build a system of collective leadership, which would insure against personal arbitrariness, where all questions would be decided in a collegial fashion?We frequently compare the political system of the USSR with the political systems of the capitalist countries. They have a rich experience, having tried many variants, and not one effective variant is based on totalitarian control.
Now this is what I want to call your attention to. The socialist state with its state ownership of the means of production is, apart from everything else, still an economic system. And it is a system on a gigantic scale. The company, the enterprise serves as an analogy in the capitalist world. A single company, and not the whole economy. Each company, whether headed by an individual entrepreneur or by a general director, is authoritarian. Whatever storms might occur at the highest levels of bourgeois politics, the stability of the economy is secured by the stability of the separate systems. The owners are unchanged. The owners are neither elected nor overthrown. It is they who secure the unity of the plan and its implementation, the (economic) policies and their realization. Of course, the owners do change, companies are inherited and sold. But this process is spread out, stochastically, over time. And that which one inheritor might destroy, or the change of political direction which one purchaser might bring about, these are trifles, small ripples in the sea of economic life.
The people's socialist economy is quite another thing. This company simply does not have the right to go bankrupt nor to make essential mistakes in its choice of direction. And, as with any capitalist company, it cannot allow lack of coordination in its economic mechanism or defects in its administrative systems. On the other hand it is considerably more difficult for it to defend these structures against political storms. Nor can it expect help or protection from any quarter.
Such were the responsibilities that Stalin took upon himself. And, in order to accomplish the essential tasks, he needed both a reliable series of administrative systems and, more importantly, freedom from the thoughtless zigzags of collegial voting. I have still not passed judgement as to whether this was good or bad, and I beg you, dear reader, not to rush to judgement either. Perhaps it would have been better not to undertake the construction of a socialist economy, perhaps the best thing would have been to let things slide, to wait for a complete collapse and then to see what economic form would have arisen spontaneously. Perhaps. But Stalin made his choice. And the actions of Stalin which each of us wants to assess and judge from the level of his own contemporary outlook, is entirely contained in this choice.
It was essential to install, in key posts, people for whom the authority of Stalin was just as high as Lenin's was in his time, or even better, unquestionable. The party leaders of the first wave could, in no way, see inStalin a leader; for them he appeared to be, in the best case, a coordinator.
Yes, this was a struggle for power. But not between this individual and that one, (for no one, apart from Stalin, really aspired to it) but for the construction, for the founding of a functioning system of administration. And those who neither wanted nor were able to join in, those whose activities complicated its construction, had to give up their places for others.
It would have been foolish to undertake the administration of the country without undertaking the resolution of these problems. Now, Stalin's guile is often spoken of, particularly in this period. But guile consists in inventing new subterfuges each time an obstacle, which needs to be overcome, arises on one's path. Guile was a small part of his nature, and occurred in him only episodically. For Stalin it was sufficient to become conscious of a task, for him, at each step, for the rest of his life, to work toward its resolution, completely independent of whatever obstacles might come into view.
Now we know what a system of all-embracing total control Stalin built. And we know at what cost. We should take note of this as his second action. Before Stalin lay many mistakes. I am not speaking about unavoidable mistakes, for these are only small misfortunes, I am speaking about essential mistakes. Whengaining ground by the method of trial and error, every trial includes within it coping with the errors."
Stalin is now also excused for acting alone for the working class. The working class was reduced to a spectator by history (which for Razlatsky is the fatalist working out of mechanical stages) whose passive support is deduced from the fact that Stalin was not removed by worker oppositions. Since working class consciousness was "impossible" Stalin stood in for the working class.
"So then, at least in the thirties, the power of Stalin depended on his solid support within the working class. Expressions of the type "on the undeveloped working class," or "on the backward part of the working class," are unacceptable. If, in the working class of that time, there had been more developed and more powerful forces, then people would have been found who would have, on this basis, built politics more powerful than those of Stalin. Leninrepresented the interests of the working class jointly with the whole party leadership whereas Stalin represented these interests practically alone. This was how the picture turned out. This was the process that took place at the summit of leadership. So the fact that for some time Stalin became particularly concerned for his own life, possibly, is explained not by personal fear, but by a feeling of responsibility, a recognition of the uniqueness of this position.
While the party had an opposition Stalin's expression of the interests of the working class was checked by debate with the opposition. But once the opposition had been liquidated, Stalin had arrived at the position of taking decisions without the slightest prior supervision. Certainly from the perspective of the working class, this was a strange sort of rulership. Decisions were taken in its interests, but not by it. The development of a ruling class also consists in, having taken an incorrect decision, appreciating for itself all the results of its miscalculation, studying and avoiding them, and in the end, building a system in which it keeps for itself all the key levers. The soviet working class found itself to have completely lost all this. And clearly it was only by following such a path that it created its bourgeois institutions. "Stalin thinks for us!"
This was the truth, but it was nothing to be proud of. The great leader himself put a stop to mistakes, and corrected them when he could. But the working class, liberated from the necessity of thought, remained in the dark, socially unenlightened, and squandered even that which it had gotten in the revolutionary struggle. These were conditions in which the growth of working class consciousness was impossible."
We think the method behind Razlatsky’s article reveals the basic problem of post-Stalinism – a failure to break with the 'great man' theory of history. The role of 'class' becomes that of a spectator in history and the ‘great men’ of socialism act in the place of classes. With such a method Lenin is always correct, including his selection of Stalin as his heir.
By comparison Trotsky and Stalin are lacking something. Trotsky is written off for two reasons - one he is not a 'materialist' and two, Lenin did not hand power to him directly. Neither of these claims is credible. First, If you read Trotsky on the History of The Russian Revolution you can see just how much a materialist he was. His unfinished book Stalin interrupted by this murder at the hands of a Stalinist assassin gives further direct testimony to Trotsky’s Bolshevism against Stalin’s Menshevism. Second, Lenin did charge Trotsky with Stalin's removal as General Secretary - a task that Trotsky failed to carry out. This was a weakness on Trotsky's part, but it is unlikely that a resolute Trotsky would have made any difference since Lenin did not have the power of a ‘great man’ for Trotsky to inherit, and Trotsky's ability to mobilise worker support was rapidly waning.
Why? Because the October Revolution was already isolated, its best worker elements exhausted, and the material base of Stalinism, the petty bourgeois, reasserting its decisive social force. In this sense Razlatsky is correct to give some weight to the peasantry acting against the October Revolution. But it is pure fatalism to suggest that peasant agriculture under the NEP was not capitalist production or that this doomed the revolution to a replay of feudalism. Such fatalism is the logical result of a method of analysis that remains trapped inside the history of 'socialism in one country'. It ignores the internal debate in the party over NEP raised by the Left Opposition but bureaucratically suppressed by Stalin.
That is the inherent failing in these "notes from the margin of history". They suffer from the separation of objective and subjective reality so that history is conceived as ‘inevitable’ but embellished by the voluntarist actions of great men. There is no Marxist conception of the democratic centralist party that unites objective and subjective reality in its theory and practice. Thus there is no Marxist basis on which to judge the ‘materialism’ of Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin. (see response below to Razlatsky’s Second Communist Manifesto).
Razlatsky’s notes on history are an apology for Stalinism. Against Trotsky, countries are taken in isolation. Russia is separated from world capitalism in concrete. A schematic fatalism grips Russia and appoints Stalin its executor. Yet the whole materialist strength of Lenin's (and Trotsky's) Bolshevism was to recognise from the start that the Revolution could only begin in Russia and that it would degenerate unless completed as an international revolution. This meant that the revolution had to be international to succeed, and that Bolshevism had to be an internationalist force.
Stalin, along with Kamevev and Zinoviev, thought otherwise. Their minds were trapped in a narrow nationalism. They thought that a bourgeois revolution led by the workers and peasants standing in for the cowardly bourgeoisie, was all that was possible in Russia. Stalin even played a part in betraying the plans for the October insurrection in an attempt to ensure that this fatalist course was adhered to. (Note well that this characterises completely the Menshevik view of history as schematic, albeit with a volutarist push or shove from a few scheming intellectuals to help it along.)
Therefore, Razlatsky’s assessment of Stalin fails totally to prove that he was a materialist. He assertion that "Stalin was a materialist thinker" relies entirely on his reading of Lenin’s ‘testament’ that one great man should follow another. As we have argued, this is a method that cuts up world capitalism into separate countries. It makes great leaders substitute for classes (when in fact the bureaucratic leaders are really expressing their petty bourgeois aspirations to balance between the international bourgeoisie and soviet proletariat).)
For a full materialist explanation of Stalin's historical role we will quote from Trotsky's book Stalin. Of particular interest in this context is the chapter titled "The Year 1917".
Trotsky has this to say about Stalin's role during 1917:
"The 22 days that elapsed between Stalin's arrival from Siberia and Lenin's from Switzerland are exceptionally significant for the light they throw on Stalin's political complexion. He was suddenly thrust into the wide-open field of action...It was no longer possible to evade issues by keeping still. Stalin had to give answers to the most urgen questions - about the Soviets, the government, the war, the land. His answers were published; they speak for themselves...
Aided by Kamenev and Muranov, he first of all removed from leadership the 'Leftist" Central Committee Bureau and the Pravda editorial board...Pravda, after passing into the hands of the new editorial board, declared as early as March 15 that the Bolsheviks would resolutely support the Provisional Government "in so far as it fights reaction or counter- revolution". The paradox of this declaration was that the only imporant agent of counter-revolution was the Provisional Government itself. Stalin's stand on war showed the same mettle: as long as the German army remained subservient to its Emperor, the Russian soldier should "staunchly stand at his post, answering bullet for bullet and salvo for salvo."
..."All defeatism: Pravda explained, "...died the moment the first revolutionary regiment appeared on the streets of Petrograd." This was an outright disclaimer of Lenin, who had preached defeatism out of reach of the tsarist censorship...As for "the first revolutionary regiment" all its appearance meant was a step from Byzantine barbarism to imperialist civilisation."
...The greatest amount of falsehood accumulated around the war issue. On March 14 the Executive Committee proposed to the Soviet its draft of the Manifesto "To the Peoples of the World". This document called upon the workers in Germany and Austria-Hungary to refuse "to serve as a tool of conquest and violence in the hands of kings, landlowners and bankers." But the Soviet leaders themselves had not the slightest intention of breaking with the kings of Great Britain and Belgium, the Emperor of Japan, or the bankers and landowners, their own and those of the Entente countries. The newspaper of the Minister of Foreign Affairs Miliukov noted with satisfaction that "the appeal is blossoming into an ideology shared by us and our allies." That was quite right - and quite in the spirit of the French Socialist ministers since the outbreak of the war. During practically the very same hours, Lenin was writing to Petrograd by way of Stockholm that the revolution was threatened with the danger of having the old imperialist policy camouflaged behind new revolutionary phrases. "I shall even prefer to split with anyone at all in our Party rather than yield to social-patriotism..." But in those days Lenin's ideas did not have a single champion.
Besides marking a victory for the imperialist Miliukov over the petty bourgeois democrats, the unanimous adoption of this manifesto by the Petrograd Soviet meant that triumph of Stalin and Kamenev over the Left Wing Bolsheviks. All bowed their heads before the discipline of patriotic hypocrisy. "We welcome wholeheartedly," Stalin wrote in Pravda, "the Soviet's appeal of yesterday...This appeal, if it reaches the broad masses, will undoubtedly bring back hundreds of thousands of workers to the forgotten slogan: Workers of the World, unite!" There was really no lack of similar appeals in the West, and all they did was to help the ruling classes preserve the mirage of a war for democracy.
Stalin's article on the manifesto is not only highly revealing as to his stand on this particular issue but also of his way of thinking in general. His organic opportunism, forced by time and circumstances to seek temporary cover in abstract revolutionary principles, made short shrift of these principles when it came to an issue. He began his article by repeating almost word for word Lenin's argumentation that even after the overthrow of tsarism, Russia's participation in the war would continue to be imperialistic. Nevertheless, when he came to draw his practical conclusions, he not only welcomed the social-patriotic manifesto with equivocal qualifications, but, following Kamenev's lead, rejected out of hand revolutionary mobilisation of the masses against war...
No less significant was Stalin's article, "On the Abolition of National Limitations" [in Pravda, April 7, 1911]. His basic idea, acquired from propagandist pamphlets as far back as Tiflis Seminary days, was that national oppression was a relic of medievalism...Not a word to the effect that imperialism was responsible for national oppression on a scale of which feudalism was utterly incapable..."To the extent that the Russian Revolution has won," the article concluded, "it has already created actual conditions [for national freedom] by having over-thrown the sovereignty of feudalism and serfdom...
...The All-Russian Conference of Bolsheviks, convoked by the Central Committee Bureau, opened in Petrograd on March 28...Stalin [who] was delegated to present the chief political report, on the policy toward the Provisional Government. The protocol record of that report has been preserved; it is a priceless document to historians and biographers. Its subject was the central problem of the revolution - the relations between the Soviets, directly supported by the armed workers and soldiers, and the bourgeois government, existing only by the grace of the Soviet leaders. "The government," said Stalin, "is split into two organs, neither of which has full sovereignty...The Soviet has indeed taken the intiative in revolutionary changes; the Soviet is the sole revolutioary leader of the insurgent people - the organ that controls the Provisional Government. The Provisional Government has undertaken the task of actually fortifying the achievements of the revolutionary people. The Soviet mobilises the forces and exercises control, while the Provisional Government, balking and bungling, takes upon itself the role of defender of those achievements of the people which the latter have already actually made." This excerpt is worth a whole program!
The reporter presented the relationship between the two basic classes of society as a division-of-labor between two "organs". The Soviets, i.e. the workers and soldiers, make the Revolution; the government, i.e. the capitalists and liberal landed gentry, "fortify" it. During 1905-1907 Stalin himself wrote over and over again, reiterating after Lenin: "The Russian bourgeoisie is anti-revolutionary; it cannot be the prime-mover, let alone the leader, of the Revolution; it is the sworn enemy of the revolution, and a stubborn struggle must be waged against it." ...Stalin presented the irreconcilable class-struggle which, defying all the efforts of the Compromisers, was straining day after day to turn into civil war, as a mere division of labor between two political machines. Not even the Left Menshevik Martov would have put the issue in such fashion. This was Tseretelli's theory...Here ready-made for us is the formula of future Stalinist policy in China (1924-1927), in Spain (1934-1939) as well as generally in all his ill-starred ‘popular fronts’.
…The conference of March, 1917, is extraordinarily important for insight into the state of mind of the Bolshevik Party's leading members immediately after the February Revolution - and particularly of Stalin as he was upon his return from Siberia after four years of brooding on his own. He emerges from the scanty chronicle of the protocols as a plebeian democrat and oafish provincial forced by the trend of the times to assume the Marxist tinge...Lenin's absence and Kamenev's influence made it possible for Stalin to show himself at the outbreak of the revolution for what he really was, revealing his most deeply rooted traits -distrust for the masses, utter lack of imagination, short-sightedness, a penchant for the line of least resistance. These characteristics continued to reassert themselves in later years whenever Stalin had occasion to play a leading role in important developments. That is why the March conference, at which Stalin revealed himself so utterly as a politician, is today expunged from Party history and its records are kept under lock and key. In 1923, three copies were secretly prepared for the members of the "triumvirate" -Stalin, Zinoviev, Kamenev. Only in 1926, when Zinoviev and Kamenev joined the opposition against Stalin, did I manage to procure from them this remarkable document, which enabled me to have it published abroad in Russian and English." [Trotsky, Stalin, published by the Universal Library, New York, 1941 pages 186-194]
As if replaying Stalin's role in 1917, Razlatsky’s Menshevik method is confirmed towards the end of the piece when he advances his opinion that the October Revolution forstalled the socialist revolution in Germany. Perhaps, if Lenin had not arrived back in Russia in April of 1917, Stalin and his compromisers would have won, and the February revolution would have collapsed in counter-revolution or defeat in war. How this would have allowed a German Revolution to proceed is a mystery. It makes nonsense of the internationalist perspective of Lenin and Trotsky, advanced at Brest-Litovsk, or Lenin’s march into Poland etc. – both tactics based upon the realisation that the Revolution in Russia had to spread to survive.
If the author means that the fear of a Bolshevik revolution in Germany forced the bourgeoisie to take the leadership from the Junkers, he is forgetting that the situation in Europe was part of a world revolutionary situation, and that it was not just Russia's example that caused the soldiers and sailors to mutiny and workers to strike and bring that country to the brink of socialist revolution, but an imperialist world war that had also pushed Russian peasants and workers to breaking point almost two years earlier.
No it was not the theory of Bolshevik internationalism that was in question, but its failure in practice - the absence of a vanguard party capable of overcoming the vacillating and compromising petty bourgeois. That lesson from history is crucial. It was understood by Lenin who resignedly wrote at the end of his life that Russia now had no alternative but to hang on until a revolution in the East. It was recognised by Trotsky whose very theory of permanent revolution these events proved to be true, and who dedicated the rest of his life to building a world party of revolution.
But it was rejected by Stalin, who never gave up his original Menshevist fatalism about revolution in stages in separate countries. Workers and peasants were forced to enter popular fronts with national bourgeoisie (even when they were arming the reactionaries against the workers or like Chiang Ki Chek had already murdered his worker allies).
Therefore, to dress up Stalin and his petty bourgeois social base, as a leader who continued the method and practice of the Bolsheviks and who in any way expressed the dictatorship of the Proletariat, is to falsify history in the extreme. It is to renounce any role for the revolutionary Marxist tradition in the renewal of the workers’ movement in Russia today, and to expose new generations of workers to the counter-revolutionary popular front bloc with the bourgeoisie.
This is why the neo-stalinist method that is displayed in this article needs to be refuted. Russia is too important to be left to Russian's who are loaded down with a Stalinist past. Trotsky was exiled and killed by Stalinists. Trotskyism was and will be again a world Bolshevik movement that will lead new generations of workers in Russia and around the world in the struggle for world revolution.
Forward to the World Party of Revolution!
Razlatsky’s view of the party in the Second Communist Manifesto.
This manifesto dates from 1979 and is promoted on the Proletarism website as the major theoretical contribution to making another October Revolution. Because of space limitations we reprint here a very condensed critique of this manifesto.
What is clear, on a reading of the Second Communist Manifesto (2CM), is that Razlatsky appears to provide an alibi for Stalin, who he thinks is the most materialist thinker after Lenin, but who fell foul of the fatal flaw of the Revolution - the failure of the party to oppose the anti-proletarian elements in the state. Thus, Stalin becomes the unfortunate victim of a previously unknown 'law' which Razlatsky discovers, namely that Stalin was let down by the party, and succumbed eventually to the bureaucratic state sometime in the1930's.
This is to reverse the causal process of what really happened. That is, Stalinism was not the result of a failure of the party to oppose the state, but rather a cause of the party to degenerate and to lose control of the state. To make this point properly we have to consider Razlatsky's view of the party.
His conception of the party is fundamentally wrong. Razlatsky sees the party correctly as a vanguard party, but it acts as a leadership through the agency of a minority of leaders who are capable of expressing the interests of the proletariat. He does not explain how Lenin and Trotsky viewed this process i.e. democratic centralism, where the leadership had to prove their ability to lead by uniting theory and practice in the program.
This means that the leadership are inherently leaders, or chosen by history, as an abstraction - the idealist mystique of the 'great man' theory - rather than by the concrete unity of theory and practice. This is a convenientoversight because it eliminates the only test of the true 'materialism' of the main leaders, Lenin and Trotsky, whose respective roles are then written by, or out of, 'history-as-mystique''. It also allows Stalin to claim his 'history' as a leader of the revolution, when the historical facts to which he in part attests (see Trotsky's Stalin) show that he acted to undermine the revolution.
As well as removing the only method which allows the party to lead the proletariat, at the same time it makes impossible the ability of the party to control the 'socialist state' i.e. the dictatorship of the proletariat. Unfortunately, therefore, Razlatsky's version of history has attributed the failure of the party to the wrong cause, namely a failure on the part of the party to oppose the state. In fact, the problem is quite different. The bureaucratisation of the party by Stalin and others turned the Bolshevik practice of democratic centralism into a bureaucratic centralism that then served to facilitate the bureaucratisation of the state apparatus.
To conclude, Razlatsky's theory of the party could not have, and cannot in the future, prevent its bureaucratisation, and thus the bureaucratisation of the workers’ state. The opposition of the revolutionary party to the workers’ state would be theoretically and practically absurd as it would hand over the leadership of the revolution to non-revolutionaries.
Against Razlatsky, Bolshevik democratic centralism in the party is necessary to retain control of the state as the main instrument of uniting theory and practice to advance the interests of the proletariat. This is not a new law that reveals the fatal flaw to be discovered today, but a law that was obvious both to Lenin, and the Bolsheviks who formed the left opposition during the struggle between the social forces that stood for democratic, and bureaucratic, centralism.
[Proletarism address is http://www.onelist.com/community/proletarism
We learn that the International Workers’ Committee (IWC) has recently entered into ‘fraternal relations’ with the Party of Proletarian Dictatorship (PDP) that co-hosts the proletarism list. This is ironic given the hostility of the IWC to anything to do with the petty bourgeois. Razlatsky’s theory differs so fundamentally from Trotsky’s (and Marx’s and Lenin’s for that matter) that it is inconceivable that ‘fraternal relations’ between a genuinely Trotskyist group and a neo-stalinist group basing itself on the Second Communist Manifesto can be principled. We look forward with much anticipation to how the PDP responds to the ICW’s ‘Trotskyist’ critiqe of the Second Communist Manifesto.