Sunday, December 18, 2016

Trump and the crisis of liberalism

by Frank Brenner

It is tempting to say that 2016 marks the death of liberalism, but that's probably wishful thinking. What is dead, though, is the old 'centrist' political consensus, i.e. the pendulum swings from centre-left to centre-right that made mainstream politics in the West about as predictable (and stable) as an old grandfather clock. Now the swings are much more extreme - or rather the swings to the right are. (One might add that what led up to this was a major shift rightward of the 'center' itself from Reagan/Thatcher on – what Tariq Ali rightly dubbed the “extreme center”.)

On the left, whenever the pendulum swings beyond the centre, it hits a buffer: Syriza, Podemos, Bernie Sanders, Jeremy Corbyn. I imagine more names will eventually be added to this list, from Italy, Germany, France for example. The reason is that it is MUCH HARDER to swing to the extreme left than to the extreme right. On the right you never swing OUTSIDE THE SYSTEM, no matter how extreme your politics. But on the left you can only be extreme by shattering the system. Any left wing agenda that accommodates capitalism is a buffer AGAINST extremism, no matter the rhetoric. The self-styled 'radical' Syriza couldn't even tolerate giving up the Euro, let alone capitalism.

These buffers are not just 'bad' politicians. Though personal corruption undoubtedly plays a role, as does being in a relatively privileged class position, these are only contributing factors, not the essential cause. The essential cause is pragmatism, which is to say the defining of politics as the art of the possible. Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras caved in to Eurozone blackmail – why? “I chose my country over my party,” he declared, a banality which made no sense given that most of his country had just voted to reject the blackmail. Bernie Sanders caved in to the DNC and the Clintons – why? Because the most important task was to stop the election of Donald Trump – except that Clinton turned out to be the ideal candidate for Trump to run against.

The art of the possible turns out to be a prescription for disaster – precisely because we now live in an era of extremes, and this overturns the expectations of what is or isn't possible. The possible is not just a category bound up with objective factors like the state of the economy, it is also bound up with the state of mass consciousness. It is relatively straightforward to know what the masses need, it is another matter to know what they want or at least are willing to accept, harder still to create the conditions where what they need becomes what they want. It is just this 'subjective side' of political life that is now in turmoil. Nearly a decade after the Wall Street financial meltdown, mass consciousness is finally catching up, which is to say, it is becoming as extreme as the underlying economic situation. What was possible for the entire postwar period isn't so any longer, and what was impossible no longer is.

To say that mass consciousness is extreme does not mean it is revolutionary. All it means is that the masses are open to embracing extreme change – which could be revolutionary but equally could be reactionary. For now at least, the latter possibility seems more likely, but that outcome is no more inevitable than a revolutionary one. Brecht had it right when he called his play about Hitler, The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui.

A familiar line of thought has it that the left dealing in facts, the right in emotions. This misses the mark. The masses who voted for Trump or Brexit were not just responding to emotional appeals (racism, xenophobia etc.). They were responding to real conditions of economic inequality and insecurity. The choices on offer were the status quo (which Clinton personified) or a leap in the dark – and for 60 million people the leap seemed the better way to go. But the 'change' option didn't have to be Trump, it could also have been Sanders. The extremism of the masses remains open-ended.

(One example of this open-endedness is worth citing. The historian Jill Lepore reported that many Trump voters she met during the campaign compared Trump to Lincoln: they saw him as an emancipator. This may boggle the mind – mind-boggling being a recurring feature of extreme eras – but it also doesn't take a lot of imagination to see how the Great Emancipator's halo can quickly turn into a curse for Trump.)

Something Hannah Arendt once said bears thinking about: “What convinces masses are not facts, and not even invented facts, but only the consistency of the system of which they are presumably part.” Put this another way, you have to have A CONVINCING NARRATIVE to sway mass consciousness. The right has such a narrative: it offers a choice of scapegoats and also a social project – make America great again. The left has at best a patchy narrative since its anti-Wall Street rhetoric is often co-opted by the populist right, and it has no convincing goal, since it either isn't socialist or pretends that socialism is just a nebulous term, synonymous with feel-good phrases like social justice.

Occupy exemplified this problem: it offered a statistic – the 1 percent – and little else. Sanders was open about calling himself a socialist but said nothing about what socialism would look like in America. Occupy wanted unity of the 99 percent; Sanders wanted unity with the Democrats. But unity that isn't tied to clarity of purpose is just the old pragmatism – and that no longer works in an era of extremes.

*     *     *     *     *

Liberalism may not be dead but it is in deep crisis. One feature of that crisis is the way many liberal and left intellectuals and artists have responded to the election. Overwhelmingly, this layer backed Clinton and are shocked and bitter about the outcome. Blaming 'whitelash' is a familiar refrain in these circles. To be sure, Trump's appeals to racism played a role in the election, but 'whitelash' doesn't begin to explain the many white workers in rust belt states who had voted for Obama twice and who now voted for Trump. The eagerness of the liberal left to buy into 'whitelash' shows that while prejudices about race or sex are beyond the pale, prejudices about class – as in 'white trash' – are still acceptable. What is striking about this is the absence of critical thought from the very people who make their living by thinking.

Jill Lepore makes an important point about liberalism in a recent radio interview. She contends that there is a major difference between 'progressives' in our time and those of the Gilded Age of the 1890s. Back then, as now, there was a vast group of underprivileged who felt 'left behind' by major economic, social and cultural change: the onset of industrialization  then, globalization today. But there was a big difference in the reaction of progressives: many of them embraced the cause of the underprivileged, from muckracking journalists pillorying the Robber Barons to movements for social reform to alleviate poverty and inequality. The results of those efforts were mixed, but the social sympathy of progressives was markedly on the side of the underdogs.

Not so today. 'Progressives' have little sympathy for those left behind by globalization. The reaction of most liberals to the ravages of deindustrialization is a shrug: those jobs are gone and it's just too bad. (See for instance the post-election columns of Paul Krugman in the NY Times.) Of course Trump's promises to revive the smokestack economy are empty rhetoric but at least he acknowledged there was a problem and appeared to give a damn about it. Modern-day 'progressives' don't spend much time worrying about what happens in the 'flyover states'. And unlike their predecessors they are much enamoured of today's Robber Barons who reside in Silicon Valley. The canonization of a venal figure like Steve Jobs is typical of this mindset.

I would add to Lepore's point by noting a similarly stark contrast between today's progressives and those of the two major radicalizations of the last century, in the Thirties and the Sixties. In both those radicalizations, there was a viable socialist left (and a viable labor movement) that kept the issue of class front and center. This was of course much truer in the Thirties than the Sixties, and as the Sixties gave way to a very long Big Chill, class largely disappeared from consciousness in the welter of identity politics. The disappearance of class from left wing discourse coincides with the disappearance of utopia, of socialism as THE alternative to capitalism. Liberalism and even much of the left bought into the There Is No Alternative line of Thatcher. Identity politics is how progressives make a virtue of accommodating themselves to capitalism. And so now we have the great irony that class makes a comeback, not from the left but from the populist right.

I would also add that this non-progressive character of today's 'progressives' is evident in the fawning of many prominent artists and intellectuals over Obama. There has been a strenuous effort to refashion Obama, to make him out to be a heroic icon of liberalism that the reality of his politics doesn't even come close to matching. There was the Nobel Peace Prize (for what – drone strikes and kill lists?), there was Steven Spielberg and Tony Kushner's film about Lincoln as an Obama ancestor, this year there is even a Hollywood biopic about the Obamas' first date with all the dramatic appeal of a Sunday school lesson.

Since the election this fawning has continued, with an added sense of ruefulness. Dave Eggars, a talented writer, feels compelled to declare that with Obama's departure, “the days of decency are gone.” I wonder if Chelsea Manning or Edward Snowden would agree that the last eight years have been “days of decency”. Or how about the 8 or 9 million families that lost their homes post 2008 while watching the big banks get bailed out? Zadie Smith, another talented writer, gave a talk in Berlin a couple of days after the US election and offered her audience the following considered opinion: “As my dear, soon-departing president well understood, in this world there is only incremental progress.” This is said without a trace of irony. The sense you get from such remarks is that Obama is 'one of us', one of the 'decent' people – literate, thoughtful, hip, a good man trying his best. To spell this out is to make plain the appalling lack of critical thought that the fawning over Obama expresses. It's also to make evident that artists bereft of an allegiance to the dispossessed become bereft of their moral compass.

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The crisis of liberalism is also the crisis of liberal democracy. The incoming Trump administration will be fundamentally different from its predecessors: it will be an authoritarian government, rule by a strong man. To that end, Trump has stacked his cabinet with military men and billionaires. The Secretary of State is now Exxon Mobil, the Treasury is now (as it has been under Clinton, Bush and Obama) Goldman, Sachs, Amway runs the Education Department, Texas oil runs the energy department etc. This is not just an extremely right-wing government, it is quantity turned into quality. As the Italian academic Ugo Mattei argues, the role of the public and private have been reversed. The economic base of private capital has reshaped the political superstructure in its own image, so that politics is now run like a corporation, and it is run by corporate executives. The liberal democratic ideal of the government as a counterweight to corporate interests was always more illusion than reality, but now it has ceased to be even an illusion. This is the inevitable outcome of 2008. The cancer of social inequality has eaten up liberal democracy. This doesn't mean that Trump is omnipotent, quite the contrary. It's easy to foresee many and varied crises that will afflict the new administration and possibly even lead to Trump's impeachment. But whatever happens personally to Trump, there will be no going back to “the days of decency”. Either the system will continue its descent into authoritarianism and worse, or a new, social, democracy will emerge from the ruins of its liberal predecessor.


Thursday, November 10, 2016

After the Trumphant: What Next?

Note: We are reprinting below a question we received from Thomas Cain to our post “Vote for Nobody”.

The comment is followed by a response from Frank Brenner.


This post expresses most of my own feelings on bourgeois elections in general, though I admit that I have never bothered to even register to vote. But despite your assertion that there will be a great opportunity for revolutionary socialism, I feel a sort of despair emanating from your piece, or maybe I'm only projecting. Trump's election, contrary to our expectations, raises questions that I can't find the answers to: Should we re-evaluate our assessment of events thus far? Should we have a discussion on Fromm and Reich (not that I'm an expert on either)? And most of all, what should we do now? I know that we're just individuals and that we can't wage the revolution or just wish a party into existence.

Thousands protest in front of Trump headquarters in New York


It's understandable to feel down at this moment. Only sectarian idiots have no doubts. But ask yourself this: would you be just as nonplussed if Clinton had won? And if not, why not? Is there not in this let-down feeling a little hankering for things to go back to being normal? It's a conservative feeling, and one that ought to be resisted. Reality has thrown up something radically new, we need a theory that can be as radical as reality.

Of course Freud and Reich are relevant, but not in a mechanical way. They can help elucidate the attraction of a figure like Trump, the charisma of the authoritarian leader. To liberals Trump seemed a buffoon, as did Hitler back in the day. But to fearful, angry middle class and working class people, he seemed very different, the man who would straighten out the mess in Washington and in the country. His role on reality TV created this image, and Fox News constantly pushed it. Trump's main mentor, besides his father, was Roy Cohn, who taught him the basics of a demagogue: Lie, lie, lie, deny, deny, deny. So Trump's political lineage is from Cohn to McCarthy and thence back to the fascism of the 1930s.

But the analogy to Hitler is a limited one: Trump is - or rather aspires to be - a Bonapartist. This is not yet fascism. The distinction is especially important now, to avoid confusion and even despair. All that's happened is an election. The country is split but the winners haven't been mobilized - yet - into a fascist force and the losers haven't been crushed. The worst thing about throwing up one's hands is that you become a party to your own victimization. Demagogues like Trump depend on that. Here we need to be guided by Marx and Trotsky as well as by Freud, and not allow ourselves to become overly impressed by power. Which isn't to deny there are big dangers in this situation, it's rather to insist that our enemies aren't omnipotent, though they would very much like us to believe they are.

The rise of Trump means the end of the old norms of bourgeois democracy. The 2000 election and the aftermath of 9/11 already foreshadowed this. Obama, as it turns out, was just a passing interlude. The fate of Obama's 'legacy' – which Trump and the Republicans are set to wipe out in their first months in office – is in striking contrast to Roosevelt's New Deal, which survived largely intact for half a century, until Reagan. Along with Clinton's defeat – despite her overwhelming support from the establishment – this shows that liberalism is at a complete impasse. The next time some 'pragmatic' political hack starts talking about 'electability' – who's going to believe her/him? From the standpoint of socialist politics, this is all to the good. And so, by the way, will be the repeal of Obamacare – a ridiculous patchwork made to order for private insurers and big pharma. Trump and his minions can't make the need for medical care go away: they will reap a whirlwind of anger that will stoke a movement for free Medicare for all.

There have already been demonstrations against Trump. This will only grow as he and the Republicans take over and start wreaking havoc. The big question is: who will dominate this movement? Will it be the Democrats, who will inevitably destroy it? Or the anarchists and identity politics crowd, who will inevitably disorient and fragment it? One thing is sure: left-wing voices will have a chance to be heard – assuming they have something relevant to say.

Frank Brenner

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Vote for Nobody

When Odysseus told the one-eyed Cyclops he had just blinded that his name was “Nobody”, he momentarily confused the giant and his brothers, allowing him and his men to escape.  Is there not a lesson here for the 2016 election?  Can we not register our disgust with the two party system by voting for “Nobody” and could this not cause some disarray in the ranks of the capitalist class who have rigged this election from the start? I only make this suggestion half in jest because in fact there is no one to vote for in this election.

The 2016 election campaign is noteworthy for exposing the fundamentally anti-democratic nature of American political life.   This is open and obvious with the demagogy and bullying of Trump. With Clinton it is mostly behind the scenes, but occasionally we can see a glimpse of her contempt for ordinary people through the leaks of her speeches at Goldman Sachs.  She says one thing on the campaign trail where she claims to speak for working people and quite another when she addresses the billionaires who back her candidacy.  One can of course say that this two-faced  posture is the norm for successful American political leaders, but rarely has it been exposed so blatantly.

We see on the one hand the rise of a right wing populist movement coalescing around Donald Trump, who has captured the Republican Party and turned it against the patrician establishment that has dominated it for over a century. Trump was able to do this because he was able to channel the anger that a significant section of the working class felt toward the status quo.  His opponents in the Republican primary were a collection of criminals, sociopaths, religious reactionaries, peppered with a few representatives of the old guard who were so obviously out of touch with their constituency that no one took them seriously except the professional pundits. (Remember when Jeb Bush was the clear favorite to win the Republican nomination?) Trump, was able to connect to this constituency of the forgotten white working class, not in spite of his boorishness and bullying, narcissistic personality, but very much because of it. [1] His promise to “Make America Great Again” touched the collective myth of the American Dream, a myth as we have argued, that serves as a substitute for socialism in American political life. [2]

At the same time we saw the rise of a left populism within the Democratic Party with the Sanders campaign.  The Sanders campaign had wide popular support, but the corrupt Democratic Party establishment, solidly behind Clinton as the Wiki-Leaks emails have revealed, conspired to steal the nomination away from Sanders. Despite Sanders’ shameful capitulation to Clinton and the Democratic Party establishment he was for a moment able to articulate policies hearkening back to the New Deal era of the Democratic Party that galvanized tremendous support. His campaign also showed that socialism can now be a popular slogan. Were there a viable revolutionary socialist movement in this country this wave of left populism could have been harnessed for the project of building an independent mass socialist party rooted in the working class. But alas no such movement exists in the United States.  

Instead what we have, with  few exceptions, are sectarian grouplets who are hopelessly isolated from and hostile to the working class on the one hand, and radicals influenced by the remnants of the New Left, who are hopelessly dismissive of theoretical clarity.   Insofar as the “Left” has any presence, it is through the radicals who have absorbed anarchist theories in recent years, theories that make a virtue of an absence of a program and a party.  Their disdain for theoretical clarity is of a piece with their disdain for program and organization.  This explains why, despite their enormous impact on the public imagination, absolutely nothing of lasting political significance came out of either the Occupy Wall Street movement or the Sanders campaign.

In contrast to Trump and Sanders, the Clinton campaign, which from the beginning was identified with the status quo and a continuation of the Obama Administration, never generated any enthusiasm. Her base of support comes from the 10 - 15% of the population who are more or less comfortable. Along with the strata of bourgeois feminists and media flaks from the New York Times, Clinton finds wide support among those middle class layers whose personal assets have grown in the last few years. Also working in her favor are a host of constituencies who are motivated more by their repulsion with Trump than any love for her. She will thus be the beneficiary of Trump’s screeds against Hispanics, Muslims, African-Americans and women.

So voters are now left with a choice - either the reactionary Populism of Donald Trump, a form of populism entangled with an economic policy that supports the wealthy, racism, xenophobia and the rise of fascist armed vigilantes – or support the favorite of Wall Street and the neo-cons, Hillary Clinton, who promises more wars and more attacks on whatever is left of the social safety net despite her phony adoption of some of Sanders policy positions. The 2016 election demonstrates like nothing previously, the bankruptcy of the logic of “lesser-evilism”. Even if one thought that voting for the “lesser-evil” of these two widely hated candidates for President was a viable strategy, it is not at all clear who the “lesser-evil” is in this election.  It is indeed, to hearken back to the Odyssey, a case of being caught between the twin evils of Scylla and Charybdis.  We will leave it to the likes of Michael Moore and Noam Chomsky to explain to us why voting for Hillary Clinton is the “lesser evil” in this election.[3]  Their logical gymnastics in support of the candidate of Wall Street and the military industrial establishment should once and for all put an end to their reputation as radicals of any sort. [4]

One thing this election has done is write the epitaph of the two party system and that is a positive outcome. These putrid political formations are overripe for extinction. The Republican Party is now hopelessly fractured, with many prominent Republicans refusing to support their own Presidential candidate. In fact, Clinton is the Republican candidate in this election in all but name whereas Trump is in effect running as a Third Party candidate.  The remnants of Sanders supporters will not likely find a home in the Democratic Party which has been exposed as being even more anti-democratic than the Republican Party.  What we have now is an enormous potential for the rise of a new party representing the working class.  Whether that happens depends to a great extent on whether the left can learn the lessons behind the dissolution of Sanders’ “political revolution” and the Occupy movement.

Insofar as this election is concerned, one is still left with the question, “If not Trump or Clinton, why not vote for one of the other candidates?” While none of the other candidates stands a chance of winning could a vote for them advance the cause of socialism?  It’s a legitimate question. But an examination of third party candidates provides few reasons for optimism.  The obvious alternative to Clinton or Trump is the Green Party candidate, Jill Stein.  Stein has gained some support by articulating policies supporting social equality and opposing U.S. imperialism.  But the Green Party is not a working class party in any sense and has never adopted an explicitly socialist program. Insofar as Stein and her supporters think her policy proposals can be achieved within the profit system – a more humane form of capitalism – they are subscribing to a dangerous illusion.  Furthermore, Stein has selected for her running mate, Ajamu Baraka, a person who is at home attending conferences of Holocaust deniers.[5]  This alone should disqualify her from consideration.

In New York State, with its arcane election laws designed to keep third party candidates off the ballot, the only candidate on the ballot besides Clinton, Trump and Stein running for President is the reactionary nincompoop Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party.  New York State does have a procedure for registering as an official “write-in” candidate however.  If you register as an official candidate then your vote must be counted whereas if you are not registered a write in vote for you is simply tossed out. The procedure for registering as an official write-in candidate is not very difficult, consisting of little more than filling out an application obtainable online. There are 32 official write-in candidates for President in New York State. The only name I recognized in the list was that of Gloria la Riva, from the Party for Socialism and Liberation, a break off from the Workers World Party. Neither the Socialist Workers Party’s candidate, Alyson Kennedy, nor the Socialist Equality Party candidate, Jerry White, was included in the list of registered write-in candidates. It is clear that if they could not even be bothered to submit an application to be a write-in candidate that their campaigns are not at all serious but a Potemkin village production designed to impress their membership and bolster morale.

In years past, I voted for the candidate that came closest to the socialist policies I support. On those occasions when no candidate was even close to my political orientation, I would vote for whatever party was running that had the word “Socialist” in its label just to make a symbolic statement. Unfortunately, although there are official write-in candidates on the ballot in New York, their party affiliation is not registered. So you cannot even vote for a party this year in New York that says it is “socialist” despite the fact that the “socialist” label became popular among millions through the Sanders campaign.

Given the paucity of even a making a symbolic statement in this election, my conclusion is that the lesser evil is to vote for Nobody. 

According to the New York Times polling information, Hillary Clinton is all but assured of winning the election as she has the necessary votes in the Electoral College already locked up. However the popular vote according to the latest polls is very close and it is conceivable that Clinton could win the Electoral College vote but lose the popular vote. If that happens it would embolden the authoritarian elements not only in the Republican Party, but in the military and police apparatus of the national security state to openly sabotage a Clinton Presidency from the start. Trump and his right wing enablers are already, even before the election, threatening to impeach Clinton. And reports that elements within the FBI have been leaking false information to the press in an attempt to undermine Clinton’s candidacy indicate that significant sections of the ruling class are prepared to do away with the fig leaves of democracy in favor of an openly authoritarian state. Even if Clinton wins by an overwhelming margin Trump and his supporters within the state apparatus will not recognize her legitimacy. The United States will become ungovernable. There is no going back to “normal” times. We are entering a period with no parallel in our history with the exception of the period leading up to the Civil War.  Ahead lies great dangers but also great opportunities for the emergence of a revolutionary socialist alternative.

[1] One political scientist has shown that an identification with authoritarian ideas is a good indication of a preference for Trump:
This discovery was anticipated more than 80 years ago by the pioneering study of the authoritarian personality in Weimar Germany by the Left Freudian psychoanalyst, Erich Fromm, whose research was supported by the Frankfurt School.
[3] Both Chomsky and Moore have have made what they consider serious arguments for supporting Clinton as the “lesser evil”. See for instance,
[4] Some left commentators have argued that it is really  Trump who is the “lesser evil”. See for instance,
[5] See . After his relations with Holocaust deniers were publicized, Baraka denied that he supported Holocaust denialism, claiming he was unaware of Kevin Barrett’s connections to anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial. It defies credibility that Baraka was ignorant of the background of a person on whose radio show he has appeared twice and for whose anthology he contributed an essay. 

Monday, November 7, 2016

On the 99th Anniversary of the Russian Revolution: Lenin - An Appreciation

Note: Today is the 99th Anniversary of the Russian Revolution. We are reprinting an essay written on the first anniversary of the Russian Revolution by the American Marxist, Louis C. Fraina.  Fraina, who is little known today, was one of the founders of American Communism, and for a period one of its leaders, having led a left wing split from the conservative leadership of the Socialist Party. He was, (as chronicled in the recent book, Trotsky in New York 1917: A Radical on the Eve of Revolution, by Kenneth D. Ackerman), an early supporter of Trotsky who fought for a revolutionary internationalist position in the Socialist Party, opposing American entry into World War I.  In later years he was known as Lewis Corey and wrote a number of books on economic theory.  He was hounded out of the Communist Party in the 1920's as a result of false charges labeling him a spy planted by an FBI agent. He later worked with the CP but was disgusted with Stalinism and finally broke with  them. Ironically, in the 1950s, he became a victim of the McCarthyite witch hunts and was threatened with deportation.  He died in 1952 before his case was adjudicated.

Lenin — An Appreciation.

by Louis C. Fraina

Published in One Year of Revolution: Celebrating the First Anniversary of the Founding of the Russian Soviet Republic: November 7, 1918. (Brooklyn, NY: The Class Struggle, 1918), pp. 3

Marx was the master of the Revolution in theory. Lenin is the master of the Revolution in action. But as Marx, the man of theory, had great capacity for action, so Lenin, the man of action, has great capacity for theory.

In fact, the dominant form of the activity of Marx and Lenin is determined not by peculiar talent or characteristics, but by the historic milieu conditioning their activity. This is precisely the mark of the great rebel — that he concentrates upon the fundamental revolutionary task of his day.

If I were asked what particular phase of Lenin appears to me as decisive, I would answer: his dynamic capacity to unite theory and practice. This is not as simple a thing as it may appear. Usually, the Socialist is an opportunist, who casts aside every real opportunity for immediate revolutionary action, becoming an adept in bourgeois liberal activity and social reformism, accepting theory in the facile fashion of an average Christian accepting his religion — repudiating the revolutionary tasks of Socialism; or a “revolutionist” becomes an adept in using formulae, whose action is hampered by the silken cord of abstract theory, absorbed so much in the Revolution that the requirements of the immediate revolutionary struggle are allowed to pass into the years of wasted opportunity — paltering with the revolutionary tasks of Socialism. Each of these two types of Socialists evade all actual problems of the Revolution. Action must be directed by theory, and theory must become action. An uncompromising revolutionist, Lenin has an overwhelming sense of reality. The Revolution to him is not a dress parade of amicable transformation, of the pacific “penetration” of Capitalism by Socialism; nor is it the conquest of Capitalism by the formulation of “revolutionary” theory and formulae, much as a bourgeois “idealist” sees in general principles of human action the means for the emancipation of the world. No; Lenin conceives the Revolution as a series of implacable, brutal class struggles; as a process in which theory and action are inseparably united; as a dynamic movement in which every opportunity, every crisis, every strength, weakness, and peculiarity of the social alignment becomes the subject of study and appropriate action.

Let it not appear from this that Lenin is an opportunist wavering with each new shift of the social wind; Lenin has the utmost scorn, and justly, for the miserable opportunist who shifts and wavers, hesitates and compromises, and uses “reality” as a justification. Adapting one’s self to temporarily dominant facts, compromising with issues and forces fundamentally contrary to Socialism on the specious plea of “necessary action,” is not to adapt one’s self to reality, but to accept forms instead of substance, the appearance of reality for reality itself. Reality is infinitely deceptive. At the moment when the war and Tsarism constituted the “reality” in Russia, a new reality appeared and burst forth, the action of the revolutionary proletariat, the reality of revolutionary Socialism. Life is consistent in spite of apparent inconsistency. There must be consistency in theory and in action, based upon adapting each to the fundamental facts of the forces and tendency of Capitalism and the revolutionary proletariat. Consistency that is flexible, and flexibility that is consistent, are instruments of the Revolution. When the moment for “necessary action” comes — revolutionary action — the opportunist will waver and oppose this necessary revolutionary action, as did the majority Socialists in Europe, the “men of action”; while the man who was accused of not being “in action,” who rejected participation in certain action as contrary to Socialism and the class struggle, becomes the director and inspiration of the greatest of all revolutions.

It might make one cynical, if life itself didn’t suppress cynicism in the revolutionary Socialist, to consider certain reactions toward Lenin. There are many who consider Lenin a sort of bolt from the blue, a miraculous product of the Russian Revolution; there are others who bitterly attacked Lenin, now singing his praises, while they try to compress Lenin’s policy into the small space of their petty purposes and corrupt ideology; and there are still others who invoke Lenin and the proletarian revolution in Russian while pursuing the petty bourgeois, opportunistic policy of moderate Socialism which they have always pursued, and which Lenin condemned, condemns, and will continue to condemn... And Lenin serenely, uncompromisingly, adheres to the revolutionary theory and action compromising his fundamental policy for twenty years, disaster and success alike emphasizing his revolutionary energy and initiative....

During the course of years Lenin labored in comparative obscurity, forging the concepts that have become the thunderbolts of the Russian Revolution. Lenin represented the minority, that minority of revolutionary Socialism which in all nations actively represents the Revolution and is the hope of the proletariat. The world of Socialism — that is to say, the world comprised in the petty bourgeois Socialism of the Second International — rendered homage to clay idols, to Karl Kautsky, to Georgii Plekhanov, to Jules Guesde, all of whom collapsed miserably under the test of the revolutionary crisis produced by the war. The world of petty bourgeois Socialism invoked the German Social Democracy, the British Labour Party, the French Socialist Party, the dominant Socialism in Russia, while it ignored, condemned, or knew nothing of the Bolsheviki and other groups of the revolutionary minority, the policy of which conquers in Russia, and will conquer everywhere by means of the New International of the final struggle and victory. But Lenin was not swerved from his course by apparent failure, no more than he has been swerved from his course by success. In these years of preparation for the Revolution, in these bitter years of momentary triumph of a Socialism essentially counterrevolutionary, Lenin developed the fundamentals of his policy, which his revolutionary integrity and mastery of theory convinced him were in accord with the fundamental facts and tendency of Capitalism and the proletariat, and which would necessarily conquer under the impulse of the universal crisis generated by Imperialism, which introduces the new revolutionary epoch of the proletarian class struggle.

The courage and initiative of the man, his integrity and devotion to the fundamental tasks of Socialism, his refusal to temporize with revolutionary consistency, policy, and honor for the sake of meretricious popularity, are marvels of character and vision, an inspiration to the Socialist and the rebel.

It is impossible to chronicle here the achievements of Lenin. But there is one achievement, I think, which is characteristic. I was discussing Lenin with a comrade the other day, and he said: “It rather tires me to read so much in which Lenin repeatedly insists, as against Karl Kautsky, that Marx said this or meant that. A man who has accomplished what Lenin has in Russia doesn’t have to worry about Marx.” But Marxism is the theoretical instrument of the proletarian revolution; it is upon the basis of Marxism that Lenin builds. And a great achievement of Lenin is the restoration of Marxism to its real character as an instrument of revolutionary action. During the past twenty-five years, Marxism has experienced a transformation, becoming the means of interpreting history and a fetish of controversy, instead of a maker of history and an instrument of revolutionary action. This degrading conception of Marxism was dominant in the old International. The “Marxist,” instead of using Marxism to interpret new revolutionary developments, used their atrophied Marxism as a means of crushing new revolutionary ideas or compressing them into the stultifying limits of the old tactics, and justifying or explaining away every abandonment of revolutionary Socialism by the dominant petty bourgeois Socialism. Lenin used Marx against these pseudo-Marxists, insisted on making Marxism an instrument of revolutionary action, built upon the basis of Marxism and amplified its scope. Marx is again the rebel, and not the slave of the Socialist pedant. Lenin used Marxism to interpret the new social alignments of imperialism, the new forms of the class struggle, and to forge the concepts of theory and action corresponding to the new revolutionary epoch.

Lenin’s theoretical activity bulks large. His Development of Capitalism in Russia is considered a master work, as is his Agrarian Problem in Russia; his Imperialism: The Final Stage of Capitalism is a splendid analysis of the prevailing epoch, a brilliant unity of theory and action in Socialist interpretation. Then there is Lenin’s pamphlet, The State and the Revolution, a discussion of the determining problem of the proletarian revolution; and his numerous pamphlets and other works issued during the Revolution, and which are classics of the application of fundamental Socialism to the problems of immediate, dynamic action during a revolutionary crisis. This theoretical work of Lenin will yet become a source of inspiration in the coming reconstruction of Socialism, supplemented by the accomplishments of the proletarian revolution in Russia.

It is not in any sense a concession to the Carlylean theory of “the Great Man” to admit that each great epoch of history expresses itself, focuses itself, in a great individual: Marat individualized the proletarian tendency of the French Revolution, Marx individualized the theoretical coming-of-age of the revolutionary proletariat; and Lenin individualizes the proletarian revolution in Russia.

Greetings, men and women of the proletarian revolution in Russia! Greetings, Lenin, symbol of the oncoming revolutionary Socialism that will conquer in spite of all!

Louis C. Fraina.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

With Trotsky in Mexico: A Brief Note on the Life of Lillian Pollak

Lillian Pollak interviewed at home in June, 2016.
Lillian Pollak, who died on August 10, was probably the last person on earth – excepting Trotsky’s grandson Esteban Volkov – with living memories of Leon Trotsky.  Up until the stroke that felled her earlier this summer, Lillian who was 101 years old, was an amazingly vital person whose mind was as sharp as an 18 year old.  I had the privilege of interviewing Lillian at her apartment on the upper West Side of Manhattan just a few weeks before her passing.   I will be presenting some excerpts from that interview subsequently but for now I just want to record a few thoughts about this remarkable woman.

Lillian developed a deep aversion to the status quo from the time she was 10 years old and heard about the pending execution of Sacco and Vanzetti. [Sacco and Vanzetti were finally executed in 1927 despite massive protests around the globe.] Like many other children of poor Jewish immigrants of her generation growing up in New York, she joined the youth movement of the Communist Party, the Young Communist League while still in high school.  A few years later Lillian became disillusioned with the CP after hearing the Trotskyist critique of Stalin’s policies from a follower of James P. Cannon. She was won over to Trotskyism.  Lillian joined the Trotskyist movement in the early 1930’s, shortly after it was launched by Cannon after he broke from the Communist Party in 1928. This was a time before the group of American Trotskyists evolved into the Socialist Workers Party, before they merged with the followers of A.J. Muste and before its members briefly joined the then leftward moving Socialist Party (the so-called “French turn”.)  She was probably the last living person whose roots go back to these earliest years of the American Trotskyist movement.  In later years Lillian had a professional career as a beloved public school teacher and camp counselor, and she earned her master's degree in family counseling when she was 73.

There have already been a number of tributes to Lillian’s remarkable life.  Many of those tributes praise her continuing radicalism and activism at the age of 101.  And it is true that unlike many people with a past in the revolutionary movement, Lillian was not satisfied with sitting on her laurels and recounting the “good old days” to a younger generation.  And she never did reconcile herself to the status quo, the capitalist system and the repressive state apparatus that could send two innocent immigrants to a horrific and senseless death in the electric chair.  Her intransigence and refusal to capitulate to the comforts of retirement cost  her the friendship of many former comrades and friends who were not able to withstand those pressures.

She remained active till the end, participating in marches and demonstrations against war, racism and social injustice.  However, some of the tributes to Lillian miss what was essential to her being – that she was a Trotskyist to the end.  I don’t say that because she belonged to any group or adhered to a “correct” ideological position. [At the time of her death Lillian was active in several organizations fighting against imperialism and social injustice, including the Raging Grannies, the Granny Peace Brigade, and Women in Black.] Lillian maintained her conviction to the end that the only genuine revolutionary current of the last century was the one fought for by Leon Trotsky and his followers.  She always tried to act on the basis of the principles of that tradition as she understood them. And Lillian was also very conscious of the fact she was one of the last living representatives of the early history of that tradition.

In that regard, I think that even more impressive than her activism in the last years of her life was the book she published when she was 93 years old, “The Sweetest Dream: Love Lies and Assassination”. The book is a semi-autobiographical historical novel that recounts the life of its heroine, named “Miriam” in the book, as she grows up in the slums of upper Manhattan in the 1920’s through to the Great Depression and the beginning of the Second World War.  The novel traces Miriam’s revulsion at a very young age, at the injustices she sees around her.  It traces her growing radicalism and attraction to the Communist Party youth movement.  This was followed by her disillusionment with Stalinism thanks to the education she received by one of the original members of the Trotskyist group in New York.  She then joined the Trotskyist movement at a very early age. It follows her experiences during the Depression in New York as an organizer who was also trying to become a dancer while holding down a menial job to make ends meet. The book also recounts the romantic entanglements and conflicts Miriam faced as a young lady.

Parallel to the story of Miriam, the book recounts the chronology of Trotsky’s struggle against the Stalinist bureaucracy and his efforts to build the Fourth International. The parallel stories finally come together when Miriam arrives in Coyoacan Mexico and meets Trotsky.  [The real Lillian had in fact made two trips to Coyoacan in the 1930s.] The book ends with the assassination of Trotsky and its immediate aftermath in Mexico and in the U.S.

[Although Lillian was not present in Coyoacan at the time of the assassination, she knew the principals involved intimately. Lillian was a good friend of Sylvia Ageloff, the woman who unknowingly introduced her lover, the assassin, then known as Jacques Mornard, into the Trotsky household. Lillian had met Sylvia with her lover “Mornard” on several occasions.  She told me during our interview that she had an instinctive dislike for this person the first time she met him and thought it was very strange that her friend Sylvia could be attracted to him. She even burst out into the song “Strange Romance” at one point to express her feelings.]

Among other things, Lillian’s book is remarkable for painting a portrait of the selfless activity that the rank and file of the Communist Party were capable of in its early years. She recounts the CP’s work in organizing the unemployed, in fighting against racism in Harlem, in the organization of rent parties against evictions, etc. Nor does she forget that even years later, when the Communist Party became a tool of Stalin’s counterrevolutionary foreign policy, its rank and file members were for the most part dedicated to the cause of the Russian Revolution even as they were seriously misguided and betrayed by their leadership. Lillian’s book also captures the struggles and difficulties facing the Trotskyists who were far more isolated than the CP’ers and were hounded and persecuted not only by the government but by the Stalinists. Part of her book deals with the Spanish Civil War where the Stalinists murdered many sympathizers of Trotsky.  

As if these historical portraits were not enough, Lillian’s book is very well written. It does not have the feel of many amateur memoirs.  She manages to maintain the reader’s interest in the protagonists and their stories, all the while keeping in mind that many of those stories are dramatizations of real life events and people, including those of Lillian herself.  Lillian captured the spirit of Trotsky in a remarkable passage toward the end of her book. Here she is depicting Miriam’s account of the funeral of Trotsky as his coffin was being transported through the streets of Mexico City.  More than 50,000 spectators lined the streets, the great majority of them poor Mexican workers and peasants.  And this is what Miriam – the narrator – is thinking:

These people know Trotsky although they have not met him. They know his story, because Mexico’s past is full of revolutionary martyrs. Trotsky is the brave revolutionist who fought for the dispossessed, the oppressed. They know him as a man with simple tastes who gathered cactus in the countryside and tended rabbits in his garden. They have heard he was a world-famous leader, a great orator, a fine writer, who fought for truth and humanity with his pen and they know that although he made errors in his lifetime, he never swerved in his fight for truth, for humanity, for socialism and for that, he was killed.

I feel very honored to have known Lillian. 

Saturday, August 20, 2016

76th Anniversary of Trotsky's Assassination: Launch of restored biography of Stalin

A new edition of the Trotsky’s last work, his unfinished biography of Stalin, is being introduced today at the Trotsky Museum in Coyoacan, Mexico.  Although we have political differences with the editor of this new edition, Alan Woods, we recognize that his work over a number of years in bringing this edition of the Stalin biography to publication represents an important contribution to Trotsky’s legacy.   We are reprinting below the announcement of the book launching. It is indeed fitting that the 76th anniversary of Trotsky's assassination sees the completion of the book he was working on at the time of his death.  We will comment on the Stalin book in a forthcoming post. [The announcement of the book launch was originally published on the website of the International Marxist Tendency, ] 

Habent sua fata libelli - “Books have their own fate”, a Roman author once wrote. And of no book in history is this more the case than Trotsky’s biography of Joseph Stalin, the newly completed edition of which will be launched next Saturday, 20 August, at the Museo Casa de Leon Trotsky, Mexico City.

Stalin Trotsky front cover cropThis new version of Stalin, which was left unfinished at the time of the author’s death at the hands of a Stalinist agent, includes extensive unpublished material from the Harvard archives. The result is as close as possible to Trotsky’s original intentions for the work, providing a unique perspective on the Russian Revolution, its subsequent isolation and the rise of a bureaucracy expressed in the person of Stalin.
This book will contain 100,000 words of original, never-before-published material by Trotsky – a 30% increase on the 1946 edition. What is more, the previous editor Charles Malamuth’s own additions to Trotsky’s notes have been removed.
World Congress 2012-2Alan WoodsThis highly anticipated publication will be introduced by its editor Alan Woods, the world-renowned Marxist and Russian linguist. His efforts in producing this version included translating some of Trotsky’s writing from Russian into English for the first time. After almost three years of constant, painstaking work alongside a raft of assistants, he is able to present the book in its final form.
Esteban Volkov“The new edition of Stalin has added to and enriched the vast arsenal of Marxist theory left behind by Leon Trotsky,” explains Esteban Volkov, Trotsky’s grandson and Director of the Trotsky House Museum. Volkov has spent most of his life fighting for this work to be restored, against the publication of previous editions, which omitted a considerable amount of Trotsky’s writing contained within this new version.
The venue chosen for this launch event reflects the significance of the work it celebrates. This biography of Stalin will be returning to the place where its author worked on it in the final years of his life. In fact, in the study where his brilliant mind was smashed with an ice pick, Trotsky had left the galley proofs of Stalin on his desk.
trotsky-murder-sceneTrotsky's murder scene with the unfinished manuscript on the desk.Tracing Stalin’s progression from obscurity in rural Georgia to the leading bodies of the Bolshevik Party, and then to the head of a monstrous regime, Trotsky explores the interplay between great historical events and the individuals they shape to a degree rarely found in Marxist literature.
“In making available for the first time the writing that was arbitrarily excluded from Stalin and hidden in dusty boxes for three quarters of a century,” as Woods remarks in his editor’s note, “we are providing a wealth of valuable material to the new generation that is striving to find the ideas to change the world.”

La Jornada reports

The publication of this book has aroused considerable interest in circles far beyond those of revolutionary militants. In its issue of Monday 8th August La Jornada, the most important Mexican daily paper wrote a lengthy article on this meeting. In it we read the following:
“On the 76th anniversary of his murder, a biography of Joseph Stalin written by Trotsky will be presented as part of the activities to commemorate the controversial Russian revolutionary who lived out his last years in exile in Mexico, announced his grandson Esteban Volkov, director of the house museum dedicated to the communist leader.
'The book of a thousand pages, which is for now only available in English, is the work of British Marxist historian Alan Woods”, he said. 'Woods, an expert on the ideas of Trotsky, was able to create a genuine version of the last book that Trotsky wrote - the biography of Stalin,' Volkov explained.
“This book has a lot of history. Contrary to what many think, Trotsky did not write it in order to express his fury and resentment against Stalin, nothing could be further from the truth. He had no interest in writing this biography. His most passionate desire was to finish the second part of a book on the life of Lenin that he had already started.
“But he was obliged to change his plan for economic reasons. Volkov points out that we 'lived in conditions of extreme hardship, so when an American publisher came up with a pretty attractive offer to commission a biography of Stalin, he threw himself into this work, gathering a lot of material, reports and data.'

“'He began a serious and detailed work, but unfortunately was murdered before he could finish it. Being more moved by commercial interests than ideological considerations, the American publishers handed the task of publication of the book to the translator Professor Charles Malamuth the translator. He practically destroyed the work, filling it with annotations of his own invention, while leaving out 30 or 40 percent of very interesting material written by Trotsky.'
“Volkov explained how a group of followers of Leon Trotsky and the historian Alan Woods took on the task of complementing the work. The first thing they did was to get rid of Malamuth’s annotations. Then, Woods ordered and classified the book in a logical and ideological sense, in accordance with the ideas of Trotsky, including all those documents and manuscripts that had not been published.
“Thus you arrive to this corrected and enlarged edition, containing 40 percent more of the text of Stalin, which will be presented by Woods himself on August 20 at 7 p.m in the house-museum named after the Communist leader .
“In Woods’ opinion, Volkov said, this work may be considered as one of the most important that Trotsky wrote. And in a way it hastened his assassination, because Stalin was determined to stop it being published.”
In these words there is no hint of exaggeration. It is known that Stalin had on his desk every morning the latest writings of Leon Trotsky and the Left Opposition. He was informed of the fact that his enemy was writing a biography that would contain a great deal of compromising information about the life and role of the dictator in the Kremlin. Like every criminal, Stalin was determined to eliminate all the witnesses to his crimes – especially the most important one in faraway Coyoacan.

Planet without a Visa

Expelled from the USSR by Stalin, for the man who created the Red Army and whose role in the victory of the October Revolution was second only to that of Lenin there was no refuge and no safe resting place on earth. One after another the door was slammed firmly shut. Those states that called themselves democracies and liked to compare themselves favourably with the Bolshevik “dictators” showed no more tolerance than all the others.
Britain, which had earlier given refuge to Marx, Lenin and Trotsky himself, now under a Labour government, refused him entry. France and Norway behaved, in essence, no differently, placing such restrictions on Trotsky’s movements and activities that “sanctuary” became indistinguishable from imprisonment. Finally, Trotsky and his faithful companion Natalia Sedova found refuge in Mexico under the government of the progressive bourgeois Lazar Cardenas.
Even in Mexico, Trotsky was not safe. The arm of the GPU was long. By raising his voice against the Kremlin clique, Trotsky remained a mortal danger to Stalin, who, it has now been demonstrated, ordered all Trotsky’s writings to be placed on his desk each morning. He extracted a terrible revenge on his opponent. As long ago as the 1920s, Zinoviev and Kamenev had warned Trotsky: “You think Stalin will answer your ideas. But Stalin will strike at your head!”
In the years prior to his assassination, Trotsky had witnessed the assassination of one of his sons and the disappearance of the other; the suicide of his daughter, the massacre of his friends and collaborators inside and outside the USSR, and the destruction of the political gains of the October revolution. Trotsky’s daughter Zinaida committed suicide as a result of Stalin’s persecution.
After the suicide of his daughter, his first wife, Alexandra Sokolovskaya, an extraordinary woman who perished in Stalin’s camps, wrote a despairing letter to Trotsky: “Our children were doomed. I do not believe in life any more. I do not believe that they will grow up. All the time I am expecting some new disaster.’ And she concludes: “It has been difficult for me to write and mail this letter. Excuse my cruelty towards you, but you should know everything about our kith and kin.” (Quoted by Deutscher, op. cit. p. 198.)
Leon Sedov, Trotsky’s eldest son, who played a key role in the International Left Opposition, was murdered while recovering from an operation in a Paris clinic in February 1938. Two of his European secretaries, Rudolf Klement and Erwin Wolff, were also killed. Ignace Reiss, an officer of the GPU who publicly broke with Stalin and declared in favour of Trotsky, was yet another victim of Stalin’s murder machine, gunned down by a GPU agent in Switzerland.
The most painful blow came with the arrest of Trotsky’s younger son Sergei, who had stayed behind in Russia, believing that, as he was not politically active, he would be safe. Vain hope! Unable to take his revenge on the father, Stalin resorted to that most refined torture—applying pressure on parents through their children. No-one can imagine what torments were suffered at this time by Trotsky and Nataliya Sedova. Only in recent years did it emerge that Trotsky even contemplated suicide, as a possible way of saving his son. But he realised that such an act would not save Sergei and would give Stalin just what he wanted. Trotsky was not wrong. Sergei was already dead, shot it seems in secret in 1938, having steadfastly refused to denounce his father.
One by one, Trotsky’s old collaborators had fallen victim to Stalin’s Terror. Those who refused to recant were physically liquidated. But even capitulation did not save the lives of those who surrendered. They were executed anyway. The last of the leading figures of the Opposition inside the USSR who had held out was the great Balkan Marxist and veteran revolutionary Christian Rakovsky. When Trotsky heard of Rakovsky’s capitulations he wrote the following passage in his diary:
“Rakovsky was virtually my last contact with the old revolutionary generation. After his capitulation there is nobody left. Even though my correspondence with Rakovsky stopped, for reasons of censorship, at the time of my deportation, nevertheless the image of Rakovsky has remained a symbolic link with my old comrades-in-arms. Now nobody remains. For a long time now I have not been able to satisfy my need to exchange ideas and discuss problems with someone else. I am reduced to carrying on a dialogue with the newspapers, or rather through the newspapers with facts and opinions.
“And still I think that the work in which I am engaged now, despite its extremely insufficient and fragmentary nature, is the most important work of my life—more important than 1917, more important than the period of the Civil War or any other.
“For the sake of clarity I would put it this way. Had I not been present in 1917 in Petersburg, the October Revolution would still have taken place—on the condition that Lenin was present and in command. If neither Lenin nor I had been present in Petersburg, there would have been no October Revolution: the leadership of the Bolshevik Party would have prevented it from occurring—of this I have not the slightest doubt! If Lenin had not been in Petersburg, I doubt whether I could have managed to conquer the resistance of the Bolshevik leaders. The struggle with ‘Trotskyism’ (i.e., with the proletarian revolution) would have commenced in May, 1917, and the outcome of the revolution would have been in question. But I repeat, granted the presence of Lenin the October Revolution would have been victorious anyway. The same could by and large be said of the Civil War, although in its first period, especially at the time of the fall of Simbirsk and Kazan, Lenin wavered and was beset by doubts. But this was undoubtedly a passing mood which he probably never even admitted to anyone but me.
“Thus I cannot speak of the ‘indispensability’ of my work, even about the period from 1917 to 1921. But now my work is ‘indispensable’ in the full sense of the word. There is no arrogance in this claim at all. The collapse of the two Internationals has posed a problem which none of the leaders of these Internationals is at all equipped to solve. The vicissitudes of my personal fate have confronted me with this problem and armed me with important experience in dealing with it. There is now no one except me to carry out the mission of arming a new generation with the revolutionary method over the heads of the leaders of the Second and Third International. And I am in a complete agreement with Lenin (or rather Turgenev) that the worst vice is to be more than 55 years old! I need at least about five more years of uninterrupted work to ensure the succession.” (Trotsky, Diary In Exile, pp. 53-4.)
But Trotsky was not to be granted his wish. After various attempts, the GPU finally managed to put an end to Trotsky’s life on 20th August 1940.

The revenge of history

Optimized-FrontCoverFor more information about the publication itself please contact Wellred BooksWhen the Stalinist agent Ramon Mercader brought his pickaxe crashing down on the skull of his defenseless victim, Stalin’s wish appeared to have been granted. It is in fact a very easy thing to terminate the life of an individual. The human animal is a frail and fragile thing. It can be easily killed by a knife, a bullet or an ice pick. But it is not possible to murder an idea whose time has come.
The fight for the ideas of Leon Trotsky – the ideas of Leninism, of Bolshevism and of the October Revolution – did not end on 20 August 1940. On the contrary, that struggle continues unabated to the present day. The memory of Leon Trotsky continues to be celebrated by class conscious workers and revolutionary youth all over the world. That of Stalin, the gravedigger of the October Revolution, is reviled as that of Cain who murdered his brother in order to usurp his inheritance.
In spite of everything, right up to the end, Trotsky remained absolutely firm in his revolutionary ideas. His testament reveals enormous optimism in the socialist future of humanity. But his real testament is to be found in his books and other writings, which continue to be a treasure-house of Marxist ideas for the new generation of revolutionaries. The fact that nowadays, the spectre of “Trotskyism” continues to haunt the bourgeois, reformist and Stalinist leaders is sufficient proof of the resilience of the ideas of Bolshevism-Leninism. For that, essentially, is what “Trotskyism” signifies.
After the delay of almost eight decades, Trotsky’s biography of Stalin has been reborn. In its pages the revolutionary workers and youth of today will find a treasure trove of Marxist theory and ideas, a mine of information about the history of Bolshevism and the Russian revolution and an answer to the question of how the greatest revolution in history degenerated into a monstrous totalitarian and bureaucratic regime.
The very fact that the launching of the book, which at the moment is only available in English (a Spanish translation is in preparation) is taking place in Mexico, in the house where Trotsky lived, worked and died the death of a revolutionary martyr, is a fitting monument to that great revolutionary internationalist. It is the final revenge of history against Stalin and Stalinism and a living confirmation of the vitality of the ideas of Marxism.
Please find the details about the launch event here