by James Bradley
Your introduction to David Bruce's piece, A Charlatan Exposed, provided an excellent backdrop for the ideas raised by Bruce and provokes further interest. You make several points in your bullet summary with which I heartily agree and your reference to "Left Keynesians claiming to be Marxists" and the "honorific . . . Science of Perspectives" is an apt comment with respect to the WSWS commentary on world events.
Yes, David Bruce's work is much more focused on philosophical issues than North's and his remark labelling Healy's philosophy as "misunderstood empiricism without the clarity of the empirical philosophers" is particularly succinct and memorable.
Clearly, Bruce put a great deal of effort into exposing what he calls the “fraudulent nature of the ‘philosophy’ which has passed for Marxism in our movement for years ”.
Today, the philosophy of the ICFI has again been challenged in the series of documents produced by yourself and Frank Brenner. I urge all casual readers of this site to take the time to read all of the relevant documents.
I was particularly interested in Bruce's reference to One Step Forward. With respect to Plekhanov's opportunism at the conclusion of the Congress, Bruce makes the point:
“As a matter of fact, neither Lenin nor Trotsky tried to explain Plekhanov’s opportunism primarily by looking for ‘philosophical’ flaws in his writings although they did criticise them. They looked rather at the evolution of his social being: long years of exile, isolation from the movement, the undeveloped state of the class struggle during his formative years, etc etc. ”
Of course this discussion is reminiscent of your discussion with David North.
Ironically, whilst Bruce may not have been aware of Lenin's remarks concerning Plekhanov in Volume 38, Lenin made some very explicit comments (One Step Forward: Section P) with respect to Plekhanov's failure to have a dialectical understanding of the fruits of his (Plekhanov's) own publication What Should Not Be Done. When Plekhanov is taken aback by the reaction to his overtures to the Martovites, Lenin points out:
“This misfortune befell Comrade Plekhanov because he violated a basic principle of that dialectics to which he so unluckily referred, namely, that there is no abstract truth, that truth is always concrete. That is why it was out of place to lend an abstract form to the perfectly concrete idea of yielding to the Martovites after the League Congress.”
When writing about “ 'the continuity of Trotskyism' “, Bruce says:
“I would argue that it is not established simply by showing (perhaps we would end by showing the opposite – consider where that would leave us) a thread of integrity through different sections of the International vis- a-vis the Permanent Revolution, dialectical method, etc. Rather, the continuity of Trotskyism is based upon the economic and cultural conquests of October and the gains of the working class that have followed. The betrayals of Stalinism and social-democracy have not led to the overthrow of the property relations established in 1917. [This written in 1985] Millions of Russians did not die in vain in the struggle against fascism. That is the primary determinant of the continuity of Trotskyism. It is the movement of social forces (the major conquests of masses of people) that determines our ideas, not the other way round. ”
Bruce seems to suggest that the continuity of Trotskyism is diminished by the betrayals of Stalinism. Isn't this defeat of the working class an affirmation of the correct analysis and warnings made by Trotsky of the policies of Stalinism? The continuity of Trotskyism is not diminished by these defeats, but by new interpretations of Trotskyism which ignore what Trotsky had to say.
The ICFI today bases its abandonment of work in the trade unions on the defeats of the working class caused by the class collaborationist policies of the trade union leadership. Amongst Trotsky's last articles, Trade Unions in the Epoch of Imperialist Decay, he warned:
“From what has been said it follows quite clearly that, in spite of the progressive degeneration of trade unions and their growing together with the imperialist state, the work within the trade unions not only does not lose any of its importance but remains as before and becomes in a certain sense even more important work than ever for every revolutionary party. The matter at issue is essentially the struggle for influence over the working class. Every organization, every party, every faction which permits itself an ultimatistic position in relation to the trade union, i.e., in essence turns its back upon the working class, merely because of displeasure with its organizations, every such organization is destined to perish. And it must be said it deserves to perish.”
Thanks David Bruce for making this work available and thanks Alex for the very informative introduction.
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