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Russia 1917and Spain 1936



"The Spanish workers went far beyond the Russian workers in 1917. Russia in 1917 was a contest between feudalism and the bourgeoisie, the latter manipulating the workers. Spain 1936 was strictly a contest of workers against capital."[1]

Internationalism replies "In Russia in 1917, in contrast to Spain 1936, the capitalist state was overthrown by the mass organs of the prolet­ariat... the desperate uprising of workers in Barcelona in May ‘37 was a last gasp of the proletariat, a vain effort to overthrow the capitalist state apparatus."


Introductory remarks

For some time, the press of the political tendency that calls itself the International Communist Current (ICC) has published polemics directed at the international political grouping to which we belong, Fomento Obrero Revolucionario (FOR). These polemics have covered a broad range of subjects, always noting that the ICC defends certain basic positions close to those of the FOR: above all, opposition to the unions and to ‘national liberation' wars. These points of virtual agreement, however, important as they are in the pres-day world, should not suggest any basic identity or agreement between ICC and FOR, The guidelines for interpreting these positions, the ways of intervening, the methods of research, and the historical analyses of the ICC and the FOR are wholly, totally different.

For example, although both tendencies attack the unions, the theoretical basis for doing is entirely at odds. The ICC begins with a subjective, honest and necessary recognition of the anti-worker function of the unions, Then, using some-what limited theoretical tools, they attempt to project backward into history a retrospective theory of unionism, based on the concept that unions were progressive in the last century, when capitalism was on the rise and could satisfy the basic needs of the workers, while today capitalism is decadent and must use the unions to help trim consumption. This analysis ignores the day-to-day role of unions in the sale of labor power, and therefore as an organic sector of capital. For us of the FOR, what is wrong with the unions is not whether or not they deliver a higher wage, but in negotiating wages, or the price of labor, they fortify the system in which labor is bought and sold as a commodity. Nor do the unions obvious repressive functions derive from the episodic need of the bourgeoisie for a buffer between them and the workers, an aspect of the problem that in its own way can lead workers astray by planting the suggestion that ‘new', ‘class-struggle' union are the answer to the corruption of union bureau­crats. The very origin of the unions is in the inevitability, given the sale of labor power as a commodity, of competition between the seller (the worker) and the buyer (the employer), over price.

Workers today tend to oppose the unions because of their role in the workplace as police and regulator of production, an immutable aspect of their economic role, and not a product of the vagaries of any sort of political mediation, real or imag­ined The ICC's propaganda on unions, though excellent in its impetus, nevertheless remains too incorrectly over-‘theorized' to contribute directly to the development of an anti-union workers' movement. An attachment to amateurish ‘theory' and a blindness to experience, of which the union question provides only one example, characterize the whole of the ICC's polemical and political activity. This is particularly evident in the ICC's most recent communication with the FOR, the text ‘Confusions of FOR on Russia 1917 and Spain 1936' in International Review, number 25, 1981 (herein­ after referred to as ‘1917/1936') The purpose of the present text is to provide a basis for a full answer to the points raised by the ICC in the    ‘1917/1936' text.

Before taking up the ‘1917/1936' text, further clarifications are in order. Although the author of these lines is a member of the FOR, the present work is not and must not be taken as an ‘official' statement of the FOR on Russia 1917 and Spain 1936. It is this writer's opinion that activity in a political organization, while presuming agreement on program and on the major political questions of the day, cannot and should not automatically require agreement on all points of analysis of the past. The reasons for this are, first, the need for militants to develop habits of inde­pendent inquiry, and second, the futility and juvenilism of seeking simple and absolute answers in the analysis of historical events. The author's propositions on Spain 1936 do not differ from those of the FOR in general and of its leading spokesperson, G.Munis, in particular. This is not       the case with Russia 1917, where lately this writer has come to disagree with major elements of the analysis put forward by Munis. We say lately because our present position on Russia, as will be seen, differs dramatically from that put forward by the present writer in a letter on Trotsky published in Marxist Worker, number 2, 1980. The Marxist Worker letter presents a view held until this year.

We will examine the ICC's positions on Spain and Russia. We will then discuss Munis on Russia. Finally, we will present our own view on Russia. But we must add a final stipulation. Our critique of the ICC is extremely harsh in line with the FOR text ‘False Trajectory of Revolution Inter­nationale' soon to be published in English in our bulletin The Alarm. This does not exclude a perspective of common political work with the ICC. The FOR and the ICC are today the only groups with a combative class position on the ‘national liberation' counter revolution, the most urgent question of the moment. In our attacks on the Salvadoran ‘left' we are alone, a matter of the fullest pride. While our intellectual traditions and methods differ so radically as to preclude full agreement, that need have no effect on spec­ific projects for joint political action. On this point the author of these lines is fully support­ed by the other members of FOCUS.

l. The ICC and FOR on SPAIN

We of the FOR cannot disguise our disquiet at what we see as major flaws in the ICC's theoret­ical and polemical system, no better expressed than in their discussion of Spain. To begin with, in the ‘1917/1936' text, the ICC employs critical methods against Munis that are lamentably within the worst traditions of the false ‘left'. Rather than studying and analyzing without illusions the views of Munis, the ICC sets up and then handily demolishes a straw man, representing what they hope will be accepted, by those unacquainted with Munis' work, as his views. The ‘1917/1936' text attempts to label Munis' (and our) emphasis on the Spanish over the Russian phase in the world- revolutionary convulsion of 1917-37 a "basic error", then attacks the "origins of the error" by zeroing in on a supposed "emphasis on social over political measures" in Munis' writings. The one of course ‘flows' from the other, for the dialectic must be respected. The ICC is led into a kind of witch-hunt over Spain not, apparently, as a consequence of research into Iberian polit­ical history between 1930 and 1939, but by a des­ire to protect and justify at all costs the ‘covenant' passed on to them by the Bordigists, who denied that a revolution took place in Spain ‘Bolshevik' party emerged. The ICC does not state this so crudely; they speak of a "left communist workers' organization," which is how they describe the Bolshevik party throughout their discussion of Russia. We shall see where this leads them. What strikes us about this ‘principle' of Bordigism and the ICC is that it smacks of a return to Hegelianism. But Spain is a matter of history; we are neither prepared nor anxious for a discussion of philosophy. What we say about this position, when the Bordigists originally held it, is that their touchstone, Bilan, was hardly consistent on the matter, since they called on the Spanish workers to ‘go forth' to social revolution on the basis of a repetition of July 19, 1936, thereby recognizing the fully revolutionary and communist significance of that major event in the Spanish Revolution, of which more below.

Regrettably, the ICC's ‘1917/1939' text is not organized to facilitate debate on Spain, since it proceeds by the method of touching on one subject and then shifting suddenly and disjointedly to another, where one feels on firmer ground. In sum, the ICC does little more than repeat Bordig­ist arguments: "Munis says there was a social revolution in Spain but not in Russia; but this is obviously wrong, because...Munis also praises the Spanish economic collectives, and they obviously weren't authentically communist." But the character of the Spanish Revolution is not determined by that of the collective enterprises. To concentrate on them is to improvise. One can forgive a brilliant or useful improvisation, like those of Rosa Luxemburg on the Russian Rev­olution; but the evidence is that the ICC are simply attempting to justify a denial adhered to religiously. On the collectives, a point must be made immediately: the positive aspects of their work cited by Munis were not invented by him. They existed; neither more nor less than the hopes of the workers of the world in the unfortunate ‘Russian experiment' existed. To ‘bait' the Spanish collectives today does no more credit to the ICC than it did to the Bordigists of Comm­unist Program ten years ago (see Alarm, number 25, 1973, in reply to Le Proletaire). Regarding the supposed "emphasis on social over political meas­ures" the ICC, by citing the "social content" of the collectives as a proof of ‘no revolution in Spain', practices what they attack. In general the discourse of the ICC is characterized by imp­rovisation of a kind tending to put one outside the communist tradition. This is one reason why FOR and Munis tend to either ignore the ICC or reply to it with an ‘excess of vitriol'.

We of the FOR certainly admit that for us Spain is the most crucial question. But we do not red­uce our analysis of revolutions to criteria based on party activity or state measures. What decides the magnitude of a political struggle is the extent of autonomous action of the workers, not any particular ‘measure'. Thus, the superiority of Spain over Russia consists of certain key aspects of Spain 1936-39 that are absent from the Russian experience:

a. Smashing of the state, the police and the army, by workers and not by any single party or grouping, on July 19, 1936.

b. Seizure of major industries by the workers, followed by collectivization of economy, in which the role of the state and even, to an extent, the unions, was originally secondary to the non-institutional mass impulse. For example, in Russia in 1917 urban workers' food committees were organized to seize grain from the kulaks; but as an economic measure this kind of action was rather quickly replaced by nationalizations. In Barcelona in 1936 all markets and food indust­ries were collectivized by their own employees. What happened in Russia was a ‘revolutionary' confiscation, a temporary weapon against famine. What happened in Spain was a class blow against capital and the wage system.

c. May 3, 1937 in Barcelona: a victorious armed workers' uprising against Stalinism, defeated only thanks to betrayal by the leaders of the anarcho-syndicalist CNT.

d. Most importantly, these events took place against a background of several years of massive class confrontations and open working class preparations for revolution, symbolized above all by the 1934 commune in Asturias.

To his credit Trotsky, notwithstanding his many errors, recognized that in the 1936-37 period the Spanish workers went far beyond the Russian workers in 1917. Russia in 1917 was a contest between feudalism and the bourgeoisie, the latter manipulating the workers. Spain 1936 was strictly a contest of workers against capital.

To this the ICC has only one answer: Spain was no more than a dress rehearsal for the second world war and a forerunner of Vietnam; only a war between antagonistic imperialist powers. In their view of links between Spain and the Second World War they exaggerate an undeniable but, for revolutionaries, a secondary truth, exactly in the manner of bourgeois political commentators of that period as well as the great majority of bourgeois and Stalinist historians of the Spanish conflict, who also see in Spain an ‘antifascist war' and nothing else. What they all wish to overlook is that while the Spanish Revolution was turned from a civil war into an imperialist war (an eloquent revenge of history on Lenin's famous but empty formulation on turning the imperialist war into a civil war), it was at first a social revolution, and the masses resisted its transformation into an imperialist war, in direct proportion to the greater violence and deceit employed by the Stalinists in 1936-39 as compared with the Social Democrats in the1914-23 period, Had the Spanish workers not resisted the bourgeois war campaign, the Stalinist reaction would hardly have been necessary. The resistance of the Spanish workers to the war-mongering international bourgeoisie and to the Stalinists distinguishes them greatly by contrast with the workers of France and Germany in1914 -- the First World War was certainly not preceded by a July 19 or a May 3 - and also with the workers of Eastern Europe since 1945, where neither a July 19 nor a May 3 has been achieved. These are major issues to be discussed on Spain, although the ICC chooses to ignore them.

2. The ICC on Russia

Like Spain, the ICC treats Russia with a bluff­ing approach. Let us examine a few high points of the Russian question as it appears in the ‘1917/1936' text, which reveals not only a caricature of Munis' views, but also a caricature of Marxism tending to strongly discredit the ICC. A procedural point to be made is that the ICC, in discussing Munis on Russia, choose to ignore his main work on the subject, the book Parti‑Etat, Stalinisme, Revolution (Party-State, Stalinism, Revolution), published in 1975 by Spartacus, Paris. But we will deal with that further on. What catches our glance on reviewing the ‘1917/1936' text is the presence of gems like the statement that "the workers' (i.e. Bolshevik - our note) party still (during the period of "war communism"-- our note) exercised certain political, control over the state that emerged from the Russian Revolution. We say ‘certain' because that control was relative, and decreasing." (International Review number 25, 1981 page 30). The reaction of anyone even super­ficially acquainted with the history of Bolsh­evism to this statement must be one of bewilder­ment if not shock. Who has ever seriously sugg­ested that Bolshevik control over the state "decreased" in any way after 1917? To make such a claim is to suggest that Stalin, for example, was not a Bolshevik. To say that the Stalinist regime did not represent the revolutionary int­entions of the Leninists is one thing; but to claim that the Stalinist party-state did not develop out of the Bolshevik party dictatorship is to engage in an editing of history worthy of the false ‘Spartacists' of Robertson, if not of the Stalinists themselves. The fact that the Bolshevik party continued to rule throughout both the ‘revolutionary' and the ‘counterrevolutionary' periods of post-1917 Russian history is precisely what must be analyzed. A schoolchild habit of playing with concepts, visible in this ridiculous remark about a "decrease" in Bolshevik state control, shows how far into excess the ICC is carried by its solicitude for the honor of the Bolsheviks, an attitude unfortunately shared by Munis, though Munis has gone farther than any other ‘Lenin loyalist' toward a demystification of October 1917. This ‘Lenin loyalism' also leads the ICC to discuss in an apologetic and hesitant way aspects of Bolshevism even they cannot stomach. For example, in the ‘1917/1936' text they state that "what (the Bolsheviks) did on the social and economic level was the most that could be done" (ibid, page 31). What the Bolsheviks did was set up state capitalism! Was that really all that could be done? Furthermore, the ICC state that "Bolshevism's treason should be added as a fundamental internal cause" of the counter‑revolution, as if this "treason" were a mere footnote! The ICC makes and has made no attempt to analyze the roots of this "treason", beyond the hackneyed remark that "the fundamental internal error of the Russian Revolution was to have identified dictatorship of the party with the proletarian dictatorship, with the dictatorship of the workers' councils. This was a fatal substitutionist error of the Bolsheviks." This position is, again, shared by Munis and by those within the FOR who agree with him. On this point, the author of these lines disagrees vehemently with both the ICC and Munis. To begin with, what was wrong with the Bolshevik dictatorship was not the fact that it ‘substituted' itself for the masses. The argument against "substitutionism" is a bourgeois democratic argument against dictatorship in general. All dictatorships without exception are substitutionist. A dictatorship of workers' councils would substitute itself for the workers no less than a party dictatorship. A dictatorship of the proletariat would most assuredly substitute itself for the rest of society. In fact, ‘substitution for the masses' is absolute­ly necessary in certain situations. The reject­ion of "substitutionism" made by the ICC is, ironically, exactly the error made by the anar­chist FAI in Spain in 1936, an error recognized, to their credit, by the real revolutionary anar­chists of the Friends of Durruti group, who fought, with the predecessor of the FOR, along­side the masses in Barcelona in May 1937. The point is not dictatorship, but by whom? The problem with the Bolshevik dictatorship, as we will attempt to demonstrate further on, is that it was a dictatorship of a non-proletarian party.

A full critique of the ICC, as we have said, would have to leave the domain of politics for that of philosophy, since Hegelian hints keep reappearing, for example in the remark that "any alteration on the political level ( in a revolution -- our note) implies the rapid return of capitalism" (ibid, page 32). For us, it is rather that the persistence of capitalism deter­mines the character of any alteration in the political form. The rest of the ICC's theoretical ‘arsenal' is of the same poor quality. To speak of the isolation of Russia after the Rev­olution as a determining factor in the history of the Bolshevik state is well and good, but after almost sixty years of repetition, this point has been at least partially transformed into a pretext. After all, the ‘isolated' country was ‘one sixth of the world'. And although we hardly accept the theories of Voll­mer or of Stalin on ‘socialism in one country', there remains the curious ‘acceptance' of Russ­ian isolation by Zinoviev and the other ‘old Bolsheviks' in 1923, 1926 and 1927 in Germany, Britain and China; an aspect of Bolshevik hist­ory hardly sufficiently explained by Trotsky's psychological analyses. As far as the question of ‘isolated revolutions' goes the ICC indulges in something close to slander when discussing Munis, since Munis has always insisted that the victory of the Spanish revolution, and of any other revolution, is contingent above all on the smashing of national borders and extension of the revolution to other countries. Finally, what if the ‘isolated revolutionary country' in question, rather than being Bolivia, as suggested by the ICC, should prove to be the USA, Russia, West Germany, or Japan? Or even France or Italy, China or Brazil? Wouldn't such an event tend to contribute to a ‘simultaneous' world revolution, a possibility the ICC chooses to deprecate? One may jeer at us of the FOR for basing a whole perspective and a Second Commun­ist Manifesto on this possibility, but this was precisely the perspective of Marx and Engels, who based their expectations on England and France, the US and Russia of their day, equally capable of carrying the whole world along with them ‘simultaneously'.

ICC Reply

Before discussing the class nature of the events in Russia 1917 and Spain 1936, which are the central issues in the FOCUS text, a few comments are necessary regarding FOCUS's ‘Introductory Remarks'. FOCUS dismisses the ICC's analysis of how the role of trade unions has differed in the ascendant and decadent phases of capitalism, and offers instead the argument that unions were always anti-working class because "in negotiat­ing wages, or the price of labor, they fortify the system in which labor is bought and sold as a commodity". Here FOCUS exhibits a moralistic and ahistorical view on the nature of unionism, and a lack of understanding of the qualitative difference between the ascendant and decadent phase of capitalism, and the differing condit­ions under which the proletariat struggles.

In ascendant capitalism, when capitalism was still a historically progressive system, expanding the forces of production, creating the world market, and laying the material foundat­ions for the communist revolution, proletarian revolution was not yet on the historic agenda. What was on the agenda for the working class was a struggle to constitute itself as a class, defend its class interests, participate in the struggle to overthrow feudalism where this had not yet been accomplished, and to wrest reforms and concessions from the bourgeoisie so as to improve its working conditions and standard of living -- which indeed involved a struggle to improve the terms of the sale of labor power. Unions were never revolutionary, but they did offer the means for the proletariat a hundred years ago to struggle for its own class interests and to develop the political and organizational skills required for the confrontation with the capitalist state. This is why revolutionaries in that era, Marx and Engels in­cluded, were correct in their view that unions were schools for socialism, However, when capit­alism entered its decadent phase, the bloody announcement of which was the outbreak of the first inter-imperialist world war (1914), when the possibility of winning durable reforms had definitively come to an end, and capitalism had become a fetter on the further development of the productive forces, proletarian revolution was now on the historic agenda and could alone constitute progress for the human species. The material basis for the existence of unions as working class organs had been destroyed by the historic crisis of the capitalist mode of pro­duction, and unions were now definitively incor­porated into the capitalist state apparatus. If FOCUS wants to insist that unions were always anti-working class in nature because they struggled only for improvements in the cond­itions of the working class, it is not the ICC they must attack, but the very conception, which is basic to Marxism, that capitalism in its ascendant phase constituted a necessary and progressive step for humanity, and that the proletariat had to defend its class interests, which were directly opposed to those of the bourgeoisie, through a political and economic struggle, even as capitalism created the mater­ial and human conditions for its own destruct­ion.

Political versus economic measures

To begin, a few things must be clarified re­garding the article ‘Russia 1917 and Spain 1936, Critique of Munis and FOR' which appeared in International Review 25. This article stressed the crucial point that the overthrow of the capitalist state and the seizure of political power by the working class is the decisive first step in the proletarian revolution. It is the revolutionary destruction of the capitalist state and the establishment of a proletarian dictatorship through the workers' councils which is the indispensable precondition for the revolutionary transformation of economic rel­ations. Economic measures undertaken by the workers revolution when it triumphs in any one country are not inconsequential, or unimportant; correct economic measures can accelerate the process of revolution, can contribute to the internationalization of the revolution and to the most rapid obliteration of the persistence of the law of value, and incorrect policies can certainly retard this process. But the crucial point is that economic measures must be seen in their political context. Proletarian political power is the basis of the revolution.

The ICC does not believe that "what (the Bolsh­eviks) did on the social and economic level was the most that could be done." As we have previously pointed out, the Bolsheviks undertook disastrous economic policies, some that were even bourgeois, but we insist that as long as the proletariat exercises political power such mistakes can be corrected (see International Review 3). The clearest and most far-reaching economic policies carries out by the proletariat when is has seized political power in any one country cannot achieve a transition to commun­ism. Only the extension of the revolution through international civil war between the proletariat and capital, and the overthrow of the capitalist state apparatus in every country can make possible the transition to communism, which necessitates the abolition of commodity production, wage labor and the law of value. Economic mistakes and even policies which are objectively concessions to capitalist social relations can be corrected...but only if the proletarian political power, its class dictat­orship, is intact. On the other hand, any fail­ure to extend the class struggle to dual power, to a direct assault on, and destruction of the capitalist state, renders any attempt at an economic transformation meaningless and without any revolutionary content whatsoever. The article in International Review 25 pointed out that this political power of the proletariat, this precondition for the transition to commun­ism was completely missing in Spain 1936.

Spain 1936-1937

FOR and FOCUS claim that the bourgeois state was smashed by the workers in Spain in 1936, but this is not true. There was certainly a workers' uprising which prevented the coup launched by Franco from succeeding, but within a few short weeks the anarchists, Stalinists, Trotskyists were all integrated into the same capitalist state with the bourgeois Republicans. The absence of mass, unitary organs of the prolet­ariat, with elected and revocable committees to coordinate the struggle (workers' councils), the control of the armed militias by capitalist  organizations (Stalinists, Social Democrats, the anarchist CNT), the halting of the general strike in key cities like Barcelona by these same organizations, the dispersal by these same capitalist organizations of the armed workers to the "front" to win territory from Franco's armies rather than to fight on the front of the of class struggle and overthrow the capitalist state apparatus at its moment of weakness, and finally the very incorporation of these organizations into the government of the Spanish capitalist state, quickly transformed a workers' uprising into a war between rival cap­italist factions. Each faction was armed and supplied by a competing imperialist bloc and what transpired was a war in which the proletariat was butchered for the salvation of capitalism.

This basic fact that the state was not smashed, that the proletariat did not exercise its class dictatorship means that the collectivizations which FOCUS extols were empty of revolutionary meaning, and were in fact used against the workers to prevent strikes in war industries, increase the rate of exploitation, lengthen the working day, etc. So long as the bourgeois state apparatus exists such economic ‘revolutionary' acts become diversions from the really primord­ial revolutionary task: destroying the capital­ist state. As the recent propaganda barrage for ‘self-management' in Poland, and the moves toward self-management in failing American enter­prises amply demonstrate, illusions about the economic steps workers can take without destroy­ing the capitalist state hold out the perspective of self-exploitation under capitalism.

If the bourgeois state was destroyed in 1936, as FOCUS argues, how did the working class exercise its class dictatorship? But even FOCUS find it difficult to believe that the working class really did hold political power in Spain, and they are thus forced to contradict themselves as they do when they write that there was a "victorious armed workers' uprising against Stalinism, defeated only thanks to betrayal by the leaders of the anarcho-syndicalist CNT" on May 3, 1937 in Barcelona. If the bourgeois state had been destroyed in 1936, why was an armed uprising necessary in 1937? Why would workers have to make a revolution against some­thing they had already destroyed? And what are we to understand by the curious formulation "a victorious...defeated" uprising?

The desperate uprising of workers in Barcelona in May 1937 was a last gasp of the proletariat, a vain effort to overthrow the capitalist state apparatus which, mortally wounded a year earlier, had been saved by the combined forces of Social Democracy, Stalinism, anarchism and Trotskyism. This uprising was crushed not by the betrayal of some anarchist "leaders" as FOCUS would have us believe, but by the very army which these capitalist organizations -- not just leaders -- of the left had themselves created, and by the continued ideological influence which these same organs of the capitalist state had over the working class.

Russia 1917

In assessing the Russian Revolution, FOCUS ex­hibits extreme confusion and inconsistency. The text concludes that what happened in Russia in 1917 was not a proletarian revolution, but a bourgeois revolution against feudalism. This implies that these comrades either don't under­stand that capitalism, as a global system, had entered its decadent phase at the beginning of this century and that the proletarian revolution was on the agenda, or that they fail to see capitalism as a global, world-wide system and believe that capitalism's decadent phase had begun only in some countries and not others. Both views are mistaken. If, indeed, the bourge­ois revolution was on the agenda in 1917, we frankly fail to understand FOCUS's hostility to what they mistakenly define as a radical bourge­ois tendency (the Bolsheviks), since marxists supported the progressive bourgeoisie in over­throwing the remnants of feudalism which blocked the further development of the product­ive forces in the ascendant phase of capitalism. But the fact is that capitalism in 1917 was a world system, dominating the entire world market, driven by insurmountable contradictions which made it an obstacle to the development of the productive forces on a world scale, and therefore the proletarian revolution was on the agenda in Russia, as everywhere else.

In Russia in 1917, in contrast to Spain 1936, the capitalist state apparatus was overthrown by the mass organs -- the soviets -- of the proletariat, and this momentous event was clearly seen as only being a first step in the world revolution of the working class. Neither the overthrow of the capitalist state, nor the recognition of the vital necessity for world revolution would have been possible without the decisive role of the revolutionary minority of the class, the Bolshevik party -- and this despite, on the one hand, all of the mistaken and even frankly capitalist conceptions of its program (the Party substituting itself for the class etc.); and, on the other hand, the no less decisive role this same party played in the counter-revolution which crushed the working class.

We can only agree with G.Munis, who speaks for the FOR (though not for FOCUS), when he writes: "A revolutionary analysis of the counter-revol­ution must reject any and all idiocies on the supposed crypto-bourgeois nature of the Bolshev­iks, no less than any comments, shaded with gossip, on their crudeness and avidity for power. Such arguments lead to a denial of the Russian revolution and of revolution in general: they are the work of skeptics and not exclusively theirs, but above all, more and more, come from defrocked Stalinists."

Having rejected the proletarian class nature of the 1917 Revolution, FOCUS is incapable of draw­ing any lessons for the future from that moment­ous event, but instead opts for a strained lit­erary exercise comparing the Russian Revolution to the French Revolution, which of course follows from FOCUS's mistaken view that the revolution in Russian in 1917 was -- like the French Revolution -- a bourgeois revolution. The lessons for the proletariat in its revolution concerning the need for internationalization of the revolution, for the dictatorship of the workers' councils and for the rejection of substitutionalism are, therefore, completely lost to FOCUS. Indeed they reject "clichés about Bolshevik: substitutionalism". FOCUS believes that all dictatorships without exception are substitutionalist: "A dictatorship of workers' councils would substitute itself for the workers no less than a party dictatorship. A dictator­ship of the proletariat would most assuredly substitute itself for the rest of society. In fact, ‘substitutionalism for the masses' is absolutely necessary in certain situations." Because they reject the working class nature of the revolution, they fail to see that the Russian Revolution shows that substitutionism is the death knell of the workers' revolut­ion, that substitutionism was a mighty factor in the counterrevolution in Russia which dest­royed the power of the working class organized in the workers' councils and led to totalitar­ian state capitalism.

When FOCUS speaks of the councils substituting themselves for the working class they fail to understand the dynamic relationship between the class and the councils, that the councils cannot be permitted to become an institution above and over the class, but must be maintained as the unitary organs of the working class in which the fullest workers' democracy is maintained. If substitutionism is inevitable and necessary, as FOCUS argues, one wonders whether FOCUS has any conception of, or commitment to, workers' democracy.

Jerry Grevin & Mac Intosh

[1] We are publishing two parts of this letter. In IR 28, we mentioned the split between FOCUS and the FOR; this letter was written when FOCUS was part of FOR.

Life of the ICC: 

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