Centrist lessons, limited and ambiguous
Pantopolis publishes the ICT-text The Kronstadt Revolt: One Hundred Years of Counter-Revolution in French: http://pantopolis.over-blog.com/2021/03/le-soulevement-de-kronstadt-un-siecle-de-contre-revolution.html with following comment: “The Internationalist Communist Tendency (ICT) has just published a very welcome article on the meaning and lessons of the Kronstadt insurrection and the crushing of the sailors in March 1921. We give our translation for possible discussion.
Pantopolis, 18 March 2021.”
The original on the ICT website: https://www.leftcom.org/fr/articles/2021-03-14/cronstadt
I am presenting a synthesis in which I limit myself to concentrating on what is essential. For further information, please see the various texts at the end, and above all the books in the inter-rev editions, which go into methodical and adequate depth: https://edicionesinterrev.wordpress.com/
TCI amidst its ambiguities, limited acknowledgements and various centrisms
This is a typically and manifestly centrist and limited recognition of what happened and its significance. The ICT recognises a number of conditions and actions, both of the sailors, soldiers and workers of Kronstadt in 1921 and of the RCP (b). But on the one hand its analysis is selective and limited, and on the other hand it converges on an equally limited critical evaluation, which, if believed and followed, makes it difficult to draw radically critical and rigorously communist conclusions.
The war, the isolation and the grim conditions becom e an effective wild card. We know that these and other terrible conditions existed, but it is not enough to recognise this and claim that the soviets were undermined and that Lenin and the RCP(b) were forced to retreat, launch the NEP and make concessions. Previously the ICT claims that the RCP(b) believed that the uprising could give strength and be used by the outside counter-revolution, a typical argument of Trotskyism…. which has no validity.
What is being concealed is that the Bolshevik political and action line was to be inscribed in state capitalism, to succeed in entrenching and directing it, by deploying typically social-nationalist positions of “state socialism”, i.e. the propagation of state capitalism As in Russia from February 1917 to October, Menshevism and SRs played a nefarious and pro-bourgeois role (supporting government structures), any dissent from what the RCP(b) decided was necessarily petty-bourgeois and anti-Soviet, counter-revolutionary and adventurist, etc. But things are neither so Manichean nor so simple. An accumulation of condicoens created the best conditions for the Bolshevik approach to action to be based on substitutionism: it was the party which would do what the class did not do, or did not do as the party wished, but this approach had been going on for a long time, it did not arise at that moment. Was this the model which Marx and Engels had drawn from the Paris Commune, from their critical lessons? Lenin knew them, as he knew Marx’s critique of the Gohta Programme of the German socialist party, but his “flexibility” led him so much to say that yes, even a cook should operate in state leadership functions, to say the opposite, because there were no conditions, He went so far as to say that he was not a Blanquist in his famous text “The State and the Revolution”, to practically use the Blanquist model (typical of revolutionaries of the past, as Engels said), and to alter Marx’s thesis that in socialism there is no state, replacing it in that book and in general with the opposite, assuring that there is a state. The Leninist “beacon of clarity and rigour” is not Leninist, and its walls, inadeciations and models are very much rooted in the worst social-democratic heritage, the one that considers socialism to be generalised state capitalism, controlled by the party that represents the working class by its programme and socialises it with a firm hand. This kind of ideology served as a cover for the bizarre practices of Bolshevism, denying that the law of value operated in the state sector and making similar statements on a daily basis, in texts and articles by its leading….practices of state economic agencies, capitalist at home and abroad (agreements with foreign capitalists)… The ICT knows all this, but avoids going into it in depth… and sometimes just going in…
This Bolshevik attitude, a mixture of petty-bourgeois Jacobinism and proletarian backward Blanquism, in the concrete conditions of Russia first and the USSR later, generated a distribution of power from the beginning of the Russian proletarian revolution in October 17 which was modelled on the bourgeois approach: thus the Bolshevik majority turned the soviets into a kind of legislative and supervisory workers’ parliament.. in theory, with representatives of soldiers and peasants … and the executive tasks, the essential nuclear centre of power, were derived from, concentrated People’s Commissars, Sovnarkom, wit h Bolshevism at the head of the Russian government and state … and Lenin as its Chairman. See note .
What the ICT narrates about the war is like that, and also the proletarian (as well as peasant) resistances when they saw that hunger and all sorts of calamities were not solved, and that the workers were treated as such, as a labour force and a mass of conscripts. It could be expanded, but it must be understood that this is indeed an article. But the thesis that hangs over the evaluations of the ICT is that there was nothing else to be done, that it was tragic and that it was an episode of the counter-revolution, so that in the future it must be the councils that exercise power and not the party, however communist it declares itself to be, but there is shit in the party and in the councils, which one does not want to criticise properly and in detail. And in the councils basically because the Bolshevik majority privileges the party and its structures in a Jacobin and Blanquist scheme of action, its delegates subscribe to this line after October, they are in the majority and the line is practically carried out. When problems arise inside and outside the party (with left social revolutionaries and maximalists in particular, and also with anarchist sectors), what prevails is the iron fist. The trade unions, which for Lenibn were to be a counterweight to the excesses, are the trade union hand of power, and Trotsky himself must be f renched by Lenion when he tries to militarise them at the Tenth Congress. The ICT and its ilk are well aware of what happened and the interpretations of each side involved…but they fall short of drawing critical consequences.
The chain of weaknesses, inadequacies and errors of Marxism, its different expressions which mark the inability to act as a single clear, cohesive and active force at the international level… is left aside. The tremendous responsibilities of Bolshevism, in part as well… and above all its practical criminal and terrorist anti-proletarian drift… And nothing about the necessary exit from power when such a situation arises… they dismiss that, crying out against defeatism. But in adverse conditions, Marx and Engels had sunk the IWA, after the Council had been transferred to the USA in order to make the process as orderly and favourable as possible, without voluntarily obstinating to continue with a structure which was no longer able to cope, in the midst of powerful struggles with the Bakuninist wing and the retreat of revolutionary capacities in the proletariat. The Bolsheviks thought that they were doing something positive? Undoubtedly, but it is not the essence of those involved in historically relevant events and class struggles that is essential for interpreting them and drawing critical conclusions.
What Engels said and defended Munzer falls on deaf ears for this expression of the Communist Left in Italy (in the wave of the positions headed by Onorato Damen after a strong discussion with the supporters of the positions headed by Amadeo Bordiga, which culminated definitive organic split in 1952).
Writing in 1850 Engels dealt with the fate of Thomas Munzer, as that of the leader of a radical party coming to power before the conditions were ripe for the establishment of a communist society. It is worthwhile to study this passage critically:
” The worst thing that can befall a leader of an extreme party is to be compelled to take over a government in an epoch when the movement is not yet ripe for the domination of the class which he represents and for the realisation of the measures which that domination would imply. What he can do depends not upon his will but upon the sharpness of the clash of interests between the various classes, and upon the degree of development of the material means of existence, the relations of production and means of communication upon which the clash of interests of the classes is based every time. What he ought to do, what his party demands of him, again depends not upon him, or upon the degree of development of the class struggle and its conditions. He is bound to his doctrines and the demands hitherto propounded which do not emanate from the interrelations of the social classes at a given moment, or from the more or less accidental level of relations of production and means of communication, but from his more or less penetrating insight into the general result of the social and political movement. Thus he necessarily finds himself in a dilemma. What he can do is in contrast to all his actions as hitherto practised, to all his principles and to the present interests of his party; what he ought to do cannot be achieved. In a word, he is compelled to represent not his party or his class, but the class for whom conditions are ripe for domination. In the interests of the movement itself, he is compelled to defend the interests of an alien class, and to feed his own class with phrases and promises, with the assertion that the interests of that alien class are their own interests. Whoever puts himself in this awkward position is irrevocably lost. “.
(“The Peasant War in Germany“)
For Bordigism Lenin did what he had to do, and isolation, a certain opportunist presence and tactical mistakes made the consequences worse . For the ICT there is some responsibility… but it falls short in its critical evaluation. For both to leave power and to carry out from the opposition a work of self-criticism and resistance at the same time would be defeatism. The Bolshevik leadership was called upon to do this by the KAPD in 1921, and was ignored in Moscow… like so many other critical remarks, with its proud and sectarian position which Lenin opportunistically configured shocking pamphlet “Leftism, the infantile disease of communism”.
What we know a century later is that what Leninism and Trotskyism did led to Stalinism and laid the foundations for a tremendous confusion which the Bordigism and Damenism Lenin remains a comrade to be saved, who did what he could … even to the point of shedding workers’ and revolutionary soldiers’ blood to … launch the NEP and make people believe that state ownership of factories, finance and trade was socialism, “though in germ in this period of transition from capitalism to communism”, as Lenin wrote, therefore something to defend and develop against the existing private and associated capitalist varieties. But the alleged leading party of the “process leading to socialism” (Lenin)… was directed by capitalist relations and pantomime of legislation and administrative, economic and social control.
Thus it did not lead the revolution, but applied its command over the proletarian of the process of class struggle and the “leading role of the party”, of socialism and the transitional period, of “imperialism, the highest stage of capitalism”, of state capitalism and other questions of the first order… was directed like a puppet by the prevailing wind of capitalist relations… which Lenin partially admits, but he lets it be seen that it might be by private or outside capital. The counter-revolution emanated from various places and forces in these conditions, but certainly very importantly from within the state and the RCP(b).
Disciplining the working class and the discontent of soldiers and peasants was one more aspect of the development of capitalist relations in Russia first and then in the USSR, which meant giving ground to private capital but at the same time strengthening state and associated capital. But Bolshevism stressed that the economy had gone off the rails of capitalism, as Lenin put it, since private capital had been hit hard. In real praxis, state capital did not come and so the problems lay in the relations between the three main forms of capitalist property.
This whole process manifested itself inside the RCP(b) and outside it during the 1920s, with struggles between Bolshevik-Leninist Trotskyists and other wings of the party, until the Stalinist one prevailed.
The Leninist party model, fully praised by Bordigists and partly by the Dhamenist ICT, leads to the fact that the workers’ and soldiers’ councils are inhibited from exercising dictatorship, that they do not take up the tremendous and difficult issues of the revolution inside and outside Russia and socialisation from its opposite, which Bolshevism could not implement and concretise (Leninist policy of land distribution, then activist voluntarism and terror to extract food and raw materials from the countryside, then cessions to agrarian trade, with the cities and the state, then cooperativism partly frustrated and partly realised, then Stalinist “collectivisation” in the style of Nikiolai Bukharin’s “get rich! of Nikiolai Bukharin… etc.).
The pretence of economic calculation and planning was made on a bourgeois, voluntarist basis, alien to Marx’s ideas (calculation of working hours, use of vouchers which do not circulate as capital but give the right to a taxed consumption, etc., something necessarily existing in a first socialist phase of communism).The GIC had to recall and specify this later with its “Fundamental Principles of Communist Production and Distribution”, infamously branded by Bolshevism as anarchist and syndicalist, as Lenin and the leaders Price calculation, with enterprises with their own cost-benefit accounting, with trade, money and commodities, and above all with wage-labour and forced labour by the state, implies the development of capitalism, of value relations which are valorised, of capitalist accumulation… In Russia and the USSR the maximum that could be achieved was a contingency of consumption in a war economy, with some limited free advantages for the proletariat, which were quickly annulled and overcome .There was no open transition period, it was an isolated state which had to and did resist, but to do so it had to accelerate capitalist development, which private capital had failed to secure and manage with its miserable democratic and warmongering governments in the Russian imperialist sense.
Bolshevism encountered major problems, a decimated and exhausted working class and international isolation, it is obvious. But a remarkable part of the proletarian exhaustion is due to Bolshevik policy. And the same can be said about the confusion created in the communist and internationalist ranks by the Marxist-Leninist ideology, a re-edition of the social-democracy confronted with socialist centrism and the socialist right, but then calling to unite in workers’ governments and political fronts with them…. so that through Lenin’s tactical astuteness (supposedly) he could prove his role and make a class react to which he had instilled aims of state capitalism masquerading as socialism… which did not react (Germany, etc.)… while the Leninists sectarian harassed the communist left who tried to follow a different course… which meant that Bolshevism had to give up its space of power and leadership.This Bolshevism could not tolerate, and did not.
To use the successes in the war to hide all this is not only fallacious but infamous and anti-revolutionary. And that policy found in party substitutionism a phase of its action, but before that it had already left the soviets in the background, favouring the Sovnarkom and its absolute policy of order and command (which led to banning tendencies and discussions since the aberrant 10th Congress of the RCP(b). Thus the model of Marxist struggle for the political defection of the movement is perverted into a model of a mixture of Blanquism and Jacobinism. The exploited proletarian class is deprived of the collective capacities that need to be deployed and kept in their hands by the various rank and file bodies and their capacities, limiting them to acting as mere structures destined to carry out orders from above, whose orientations are only accepted if they conform to plans made without their help or if they allow reforming the orientations in the face of the dead ends and the increasing problems that are repeatedly encountered.Bodies which need to be aware at all times of the needs, problems and orientations of the whole, and which must necessarily have the capacity to terminate and dismiss from their mandated functions (on the model of the Paris Commune of 1871) those who do not comply with specific mandates and who exercise arbitrary command and control functions, This organic and dialectical Marxist scheme was replaced by bureaucratic and anti-labour central planning which de facto covered up the inefficiencies and the reigning chaos, the incapacity to control the capitalist process, a process which was really developing. on the basis of the law of value and administrativist voluntarism, but which Bolshevism mystified on the grounds that it was the workers’ state which controlled everything for socialist purposes… for the sake of the working class and internationalism… while the state-party bureaucracy, the private bourgeoisie and the associated bourgeoisie ostensibly improved their living conditions on the basis of labour, suffering and terrorist domination of the working class milieu, an infamous task for which gave places in command to old and new bourgeois and tsarist elements in various expressions, as well as in the military and police….
For Bordigists and Damenists Lenin and the majority of the Bolshevik leadership were not responsible for the line of “socialism in one country” which Stalinism will have as its banner and alibi as the Russian synthesis of the whole process here simply outlined in broad strokes.
A rigorous and in-depth study of their positions and actions using the method of Marx and Engels, the historical materialism of scientific communism and its critical dialectical logic, reveals that they were. But these criticised tendencies openly dispense with contrasting and critically evaluating what is produced beyond their navels and their comfort zones…. or they offer us mediocre, limiting and centrist substitutes, as TCI now does, which it has been doing for a long time, by the way ().
The ICT goes further than the Bordigists in criticising substitutionism, but Both branches of the Italian Communist Left take the position that socialism cannot be realised in one country, which is true, and that the revolution must be international, which is also correct. But they repeat that Bolshevism through the Communist International intended to carry out this international revolution, which was true at the beginning, but then the CI itself became a tool in the hands of the Leninist RCP(b) to entrench the power of state capital in the USSR and to be used in the imperialist vicissitudes and needs of the Soviet state, when the international correlation of forces itself proved to be contrary, as the movement in Hungary, Germany, Italy, UK, USA, etc., showed.
The aberrant theorisations of Lenin and the Bolshevik leaders, of a social-democratic relation to the state and the economy, are not radically questioned by these tendencies, and at most they contextualise them in the way the ICT does in this article. But for a party which declares itself Marxist and communist as the Bolsheviks did, to believe that it can manage the economy, that capitalism would be outside the state enterprises and sectors, that there would be no surplus value because the state is “proletarian” and other mystifications and alibis, is so serious that the critique cannot be limited to contextualising or remaining on a plane of limited generalities, as the ICT does. The tremendous Bolshevik confusions about the type of revolution, about “war communism”, about soviets, trade unions and factory committees, etc., are not a mere product of conditions of isolation.
Source: La TCI sobre Kronstadt-1921 y el PCR (b). Lecciones centristas, limitadas y con ambigüedades (Spanish original with French and English machine translations)
 The first Council of People’s Commissars, elected by the Second Congress of the Russian Soviets on 7 November 1917, was composed of: (People’s Commissioner _ Position _ Death)
President Vladimir Lenin Natural causes 1924
Secretary Nikolai Gorbunov Executed 1938
Agriculture Vladimir Miliutin Executed 1937
War and Naval Affairs Nikolai Podvoiski (People’s Commissar) Natural causes 1948
Nikolai Krylenko (War College) Executed 1938
Pavel Dybenko (Naval College) Executed 1938
Trade and Industry Víktor Noguín Natural causes 1924
Education Anatoli Lunacharski Natural Causes 1933
Ivan Theodorovich Supplies Executed 1937
Foreign Affairs Leon Trotsky Assassinated 1940
Internal Affairs Alekséi Rýkov Executed 1938
Justice Georgy Opokov Executed 1937
Work Aleksandr Shlyapnikov Executed 1937
Nationalities Iósif Stalin Natural causes 1953
Post and Telegraph Nikolai Gebov-Avilov Executed 1937
Finance Ivan Skvortsov-Stepanov Natural causes 1928
Social Welfare Aleksandra Kolontái Natural causes 1952
 When I sent them a critique of their platform, the response was silence. So was the IOD (Onorato Damen Institute, a split of the PC Intª “Bataglia Comunista”, an essential axis of the ICT). And so are the Bordigists.
More on this subject by Inter-Rev:
Why Jock’s comment has been approved
In the following you will find a comment that Jock gave to Hannibal’s article above. As a moderator, I had to decide on approving or refusing this comment. I decided to approve its publication because this comment shows in public Jocks attitude of double standards (on ‘typos’, translations and specially giving sources), of insults, slander, ignorance and above all, refusal to discuss the positions of the ‘councilist’ German/Dutch Left, an attitude that has never been corrected by the ICT.
What the ICT succeeded so far with this attitude, has been the sabotage of the development of a debate that transcends its self-imposed limits of a homemade ‘Leninism’ that will not stand the storms of revolution.
Therefor, I call readers to concentrate on clarification the lessons of 1917-1923 in the light of what followed and our present period. Hannibal certainly contributes to this, as will do other comrades that have proven they can think for themselves in stead of following self-imposed leaders.
Fredo Corvo, 24-3-2021