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 Post subject: All Power to the Party?
PostPosted: Fri May 19, 2017 6:06 pm 
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In the course of reading (listening) to Trotsky's three volume history of the Russian Revolution it is rather obvious that he is running some theoretical defense for himself when talking about Stalin and co. Quite understandable given his position at the time of writing.

However, when the topic of the October insurrection is brought up Trotsky reflects on the question.

Trotsky wrote:
The question when to summon the insurrection, was closely bound up with the question who should summon it.


All power to the soviets or to the party was the question being discussed. Trotsky presents this question as merely a tactical consideration, and uses Lenin's consideration of calling the insurrection in the name of the party as further proof.

Trotsky wrote:
In this there was not the shadow of a thought of contrasting the two plans in principle. It was a question of two approaches to an insurrection resting upon one and the same basis, in one and the same situation, for one and the same goal. But nevertheless these were two different approaches.


This raises several questions.

Was Trotsky just running screen for the decision down the road to transfer power away from the soviets? I actually don't know anything about the historical context of this move, readings on the subject would be welcomed, but if the decision to call the power in to the hands of the soviets vs. the party is just a tactical one, then changing power from soviet to party can also be done later on for tactical considerations.

But I'm not terribly convinced it is merely a tactical question. The question on trial seems to be one of the relationship between the Party and the class, which Trotsky himself concedes when he makes reference to the analogy by Lenin.

Trotsky wrote:
The party set the soviets in motion, the soviets set in motion the workers, soldiers, and to some extent the peasantry. What was gained in mass was lost in speed. If you represent this conducting apparatus as a system of cog-wheels – a comparison to which Lenin had recourse at another period on another theme – you may say that the impatient attempt to connect the party wheel directly with the gigantic wheel of the masses – omitting the medium-sized wheel of the soviets – would have given rise to the danger of breaking the teeth of the party wheel, and nevertheless not setting sufficiently large masses in motion.


Empowering solely the Party is quite problematic for a variety of reasons which I will attempt to list.

1. The Party isn't an organization of dual-power, it's a group of people that share similar ideas that try to transmit those ideas and have them put in to practice. Party organizations aren't capable of administering the day to day operation of society. What this means is that the Party will be required to give orders to already existing organizations which will be obligated to carry them out.

2. If the power falls solely in to the hands of the Party, it lacks any accountability to the working class as a whole. There are requirements of ideological purity (more or less) to be a member of the Party which discounts the possibility of a majority of workers participating. This is in contrast to the soviets where the majority of workers could participate and therefor hold leadership accountable more easily than an empowered Party apparatus.

3. The Party is easily prone to take positions that clash with what the working class is prepared or capable of dealing with. With no transmission mechanism between the Party and the class, the Party can quickly find itself in an isolated position with the working class hostilely opposed to it.

There are probably others as well.

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 Post subject: Re: All Power to the Party?
PostPosted: Fri May 19, 2017 7:35 pm 
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Broletariat wrote:
The Party isn't an organization of dual-power, it's a group of people that share similar ideas that try to transmit those ideas and have them put in to practice.


I just want to comment on this, because it bears on the rest of what you've said. This is not the way that Marx and Engels' conceived of the party. For them, the 'party' that was important was the constitution of the working-class on political terrain, and this is essential for the development of the struggle as a general struggle between classes, instead of, as in the trade union movement, between particular workers and particular sections of the capitalist class, the Manifesto speaks of "This organisation of the proletarians into a class, and, consequently into a political party,".

Confusion arises on this point, because in contemporary practice the word 'party' always refers to a specific type of formal organisation with membership dues etc, but historically when people spoke of a 'party' they also used it to refer to a group of likeminded individuals without any specific formal organisation amongst themselves. The language of the Manifesto is accordingly vague, in one sentence it claims that "The Communists do not form a separate party opposed to the other working-class parties", and in the next paragraph it refers to communists separate from other 'working-class parties', and then again to the communists as being an advanced 'section' of the working-class party, and then again the next line distinguishes between Communists and "other proletarian parties".

The idea of the party which comprises exclusively of the Communist 'vanguard' of the class is a product of the Third International.

But more importantly this was not how the Bolshevik party operated practically in 1917. I don't know a whole lot about Russian history, but I do know a little about the historiography of the Bolshevik revolution. The 'classical' western interpretation, based on fragments of Lenin's writings, was that it was a straight up coup by a small minority of intransigent revolutionaries. But the contemporary revisionist view, based on a much closer analysis of the actual developments in 1917, is that, regardless of what might have been the content of official Bolshevik ideology (On this point, there are some who believe that the creation of a 'mass' party was the intention all along), there was a huge influx of members into the Bolshevik party in 1917, to the point where the party hierarchy lost a lot of practical control over the movements of it's rank and file factions. In practice, the Bolshevik party was transformed in 1917 into a mass movement.

There were a lot of discussions of this on Revleft back in the day, I remember ComradeOm being a particularly knowledgeable user wrt to the events of 1917. But the important point was this, the content of the writings of Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin, and whichever other party higher ups anyone wants to drudge up don't necessarily bear a one to one relation to the actual activity which was occurring on the ground. Sheila Fitzpatrick is one name in particular who comes to mind who wrote a 'revisionist' history of the revolution. On which subject I also found this pretty neat quote, from an article on the historiography of 1917:

Quote:
The programme of the Bolsheviks was successful because it reflected the independent radical demands of the masses; and in clearly articulating such demands, the Bolshevik Party swelled in size by October 1917, becoming a mass popular party identified with the ideals Soviet power and class struggle.

Again, contrary to both Soviet and liberal arguments, revisionist research has revealed that the Bolsheviks in 1917 were far from the disciplined, centralised and tightly organised Party that traditional accounts make them out to be. Party members held a diverse range of views and democratic debate was common; orders given by the Party leadership were often ignored or disobeyed by the rank-and-file; administrative procedures were rudimentary; and problems with communication often left decisions and actions in the hands of local cadres.


EDIT: I found an old Revleft threads on the subject:

http://www.revleft.com/vb/threads/10527 ... (Bolshevik)

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 Post subject: Re: All Power to the Party?
PostPosted: Fri May 19, 2017 8:53 pm 
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That post by ComradeOm lines up pretty exactly with Trotsky's three volume history, though with a lot less details of course. Trotsky made no secret of the open and vitriolic disagreements that happened in the Bolshevik party, with Lenin threatening and resigning from the C.C. in order to campaign publicly against its decision at one point.

These parts stand out to me in relation to the question posed by the topic.

ComradeOm wrote:
Menshevik Internationalists and Left Social Revolutionaries also benefited from this swing but it was the revolutionary Bolshevik programme, especially the emphasis on transferring power to the soviets, that proved most attractive.

...

As the authority of the Provisional Government, and by extension the moderate socialists, continued to weaken it was to the benefit of the Bolsheviks and other elements that demanded a transfer of power to the soviets.


They point out that support to the Bolshevik party was contingent upon their support for power to the soviets. Trotsky does indeed appear to be trying to screen away criticism for removing power from the soviets with an ideologically tainted look at the past, all while using Lenin's position at the time as an authority.

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 Post subject: Re: All Power to the Party?
PostPosted: Sat May 20, 2017 3:39 am 
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Stalinists like to remind about this Trotsky-position on power in name of the party. In 1923-24 Stalin opposed power in name of the party, rather the soviets/workers are (or should be) in power.

Quote:
People often say that we have a “dictatorship of the Party.” Someone will say: I am for the dictatorship of the Party. I recall that the expression figured in one of our congress resolutions, in fact, I believe, in a resolution of the Twelfth Congress. This, of course, was an oversight. Apparently, some comrades think that ours is a dictatorship of the Party, not of the working class. But that is sheer nonsense, comrades. If that contention were right, then Lenin was wrong, for he taught us that the Soviets implement the dictatorship, while the Party guides the Soviets. Then Lenin was wrong, for he spoke of the dictatorship of the proletariat, not of the dictatorship of the Party. If the contention about “dictatorship of the Party” were correct, there would be no need for the Soviets, there would have been no point in Lenin, at the Eleventh Congress, speaking of the necessity to draw a “distinction between Party and Soviet organs.” But from what quarter, and how, has this nonsense penetrated into our Party? It is the result of the passion for the “Party principle,” which does so much harm precisely to the Party principle, without quotation marks. It is the result of a disregard for questions of theory, of the habit of putting forward slogans without considering them properly beforehand, for very little thought is required to realise the utter absurdity of substituting the dictatorship of the Party for the dictatorship of the class. Does it need proof that this absurdity may well give rise to confusion and misunderstanding in the Party?
https://www.marxists.org/reference/arch ... /06/17.htm

That power in the hands of the party brings with it the danger of bureaucratisation of the party was something even Stalin warned about:
Quote:
Our Party comrades work in this [state] apparatus, and the situation—I might say the atmosphere—in this bureaucratic apparatus is such that it helps to bureaucratise our Party workers and our Party organisations.
...
I must say that our [party] organisations are still paying little attention to the task of drawing non-Party workers into our Soviets. Take, for example, the elections to the Moscow Soviet that are being held now. I consider that one of the big defects in these elections is that too few non-Party people are being elected. It is said that there exists a decision of the organisation to the effect that at least a certain number, a certain percentage, etc., of non-Party people are to be elected; but I see that, in fact, a far smaller number is being elected. It is said that the masses are eager to elect only Communists. I have my doubts about that, comrades. I think that unless we show a certain degree of confidence in the non-Party people they may answer by becoming very distrustful of our organisations. This confidence in the non-Party people is absolutely necessary, comrades. Communists must be induced to withdraw their candidatures. Speeches must not be delivered urging the election only of Communists; non-Party people must be encouraged, they must be drawn into the work of administering the state.

https://www.marxists.org/reference/arch ... /12/02.htm


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