Trotsky and the International Party

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Zanthorus
Trotsky and the International Party
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In 1914 in War and the International Trotsky wrote that the collapse of the Second International was the collapse of the model of a federated international of national workers' parties. In 1918 on May Day he wrote that the significance of May day was it's status as a day of International action for the class, international action which had been derailed by the various national parties of the SI. In 1920 in a report on the upcoming Comintern congress he wrote that the CI was an International party and all the national sections had the right to enquire into the workings of the other national sections and make policy accordingly. In 1938 during the founding of the Fourth International he referred to the International as simply one international party.

Without having seen any evidence to the contrary then, it seems clear that from 1914 to his death in 1940 Trotsky held to the idea of building a single international communist party. Unlike the Italian Left however, who also held to this idea, the Trotskyists by and large seem to have abandoned the idea of an international party. At the very least, they don't emphasise it as much as we do.

I'm wondering why they dropped the idea. Is it simply that the idea of an International party is important in the history of the Communist Left when discussing Bordiga's intervention at the 6th enlarged executive, and so tended to get reinforced. But the idea of the International party is surely also important in the history of Trotskyism, since it was part of Trotsky's analysis of the need to break with the Second International and found a new, Communist International. Is it just that the Trotskyists have never read Trotsky properly?

Red Hughs
Well, while Trotsky might

Well, while Trotsky might have maintained internationalism in this regard, I tend to believe in many other regards he abandoned it wholesale and acted as a "loyal opposition" to Stalinism.

I don't currently have my "complete list of Trotskyist problems" in front of me. Still, one detail that stands out in my memory is a dialog I read a few years back, between Leon and some American followers. He called on these followers to support the Stalinist candidate in local elections if they weren't able to run their candidates.

This position seems just laughably "entry-ist/opportunist". The Stalinists were thugs and mindless-bureaucrats. American elections haven't ever been forum where revolutionary ideas could plausibly get even a minimal hearing. Trotsky had lived in America and so couldn't have been merely out-of-touch with the situation.

Further I recall - Lenin's text "Imperialism, The Highest Stage Of Capitalism". This text seems like a key point where Lenin and and later Trotsky abandoned an internationalist position. If nations can be oppressed, then the International working class cannot be. And vice versa. I am not sure how Italian Communist Left managed to escape the effects of this position. I believe the German Communist Left repudiated it. But I can't help seeing Trotskyist in general as the most consistent exponents of the form of "Leninism" implicit in that text.

 

Zanthorus
National Opression

Red Hughs wrote:
If nations can be oppressed, then the International working class cannot be.

This is just mindless sloganeering, of course some nations are opressed, to deny this is to deny reality. This in no way excludes the idea that the working-class is also opressed by Capital, otherwise Marx and Engels would not have been Communists. The question is not whether national opression exists, but how we respond to this and relate to the various cross-class movements which spread the illusion of freedom from world imperialism whilst maintaining capitalism.

I personally think Lenin was inconsistent in his position on Imperialism. On the one hand he acknowledged that the destruction of Imperialism while retaining capitalism was a fantasy, and on the other hand he maintained that movements for national and colonial liberation which promoted the pious wishes should be supported by Communists. If we look at Bukharin on the other hand, whose work Lenin's theory is at least partly based on, he initially at least had a consistently internationalist position on the question of war and national self-determination.

I mean really, if we take this reasoning to it's logical conclusion, Rosa Luxemburg must have become a nationalist in The Accumulation of Capital by acknowledging the existence of Imperialism and national opression as a problem to be explained.

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I am not sure how Italian Communist Left managed to escape the effects of this position.

Not being fans of leftist sloganeering probably helped.

Red Hughs
OK, I apologize if my earlier

OK,

I apologize if my earlier comments had a sloganeering tone.

I actually want to emphasize comradely and respectful discussion as much as possible these days.

At the same time, I still respectfully disagree. I don't believe that the concept of "oppressed nation" is useful for we communists.

In the critique of the Gotha program, Marx talks about the problems of the slogan "free state". It seems to me that "oppressed nation" is similarly flawed concept.

Certainly, the working class in some nations are exploited and impoverished more in some nations than in other nations, certainly colonialism has had devastating horrors.

Yet, neither the concept of "oppressed nation" nor its corollary, "national liberation" has served the communist cause.

This is as close to a non-sloganeering statement as I can come at the moment. I await your reply.

Best,

Red

Zanthorus
Opressed Nations

Red Hughs wrote:
I apologize if my earlier comments had a sloganeering tone.

I suppose I should similarly apologise for anything that may have come across as flawed in the tone of my post.

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In the critique of the Gotha program, Marx talks about the problems of the slogan "free state". It seems to me that "oppressed nation" is similarly flawed concept.

This would make Marx inconsistent with himself since he quite clearly saw that some nations were opressed and others were not (i.e Ireland was clearly opressed while England was not. Poland was opressed while Prussia, Austria and Russia were not). I personally don't see the link between the Lassallean free state and the idea that some nations are opressed. On the one hand we have the idea that social antagonisms can be reconciled within a 'free' and 'popular' state drawing itself from all classes of modern society, and on the other hand we have the idea that some national entities are exploited as a whole by other national entities. One is an expression of how someone would like things to be, whilst the other is merely a descriptive term.

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Yet, neither the concept of "oppressed nation" nor its corollary, "national liberation" has served the communist cause.

I don't agree that 'national liberation' is a corollary of the concept of opressed and opressor nations though. As I said, the question is not whether certain nations are lower down in the food chain than other nations but how this situation is caused. On the one hand we have the idea that it is caused simply by the agression of the 'opressor' nations. On the other hand we have the idea that it is intrinsic to capitalism itself, and from this view we might deduce that it is not possible to liberate the opressed nations within existing society.

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For the peoples to be able truly to unite, they must have common interests. And in order that their interests may become common, the existing property relations must be done away with, for these property relations involve the exploitation of some nations by others: the abolition of existing property relations is the concern only of the working class. It alone has also the means for doing this. The victory of the proletariat over the bourgeoisie is, at the same time, victory over the national and industrial conflicts which today range the peoples of the various countries against one another in hostility and enmity. And so the same time the he last to wish for its restoration. But it is not only the old Poland that is lost. The old Germany, the old France, the old England, the whole of the old society is lost. But the loss of the old society is no loss for those who have nothing to lose in the old society, and this is the case of the great majority in all countries at the present time. They have rather everything to gain by the downfall of the old society, which is the condition for the establishment of a new society, one no longer based on class antagonisms.

Of all countries, England is the one where the contradiction between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie is most highly developed. The victory of the English proletarians over the English bourgeoisie is, therefore, decisive for the victory of all the oppressed over their oppressors. Hence Poland must be liberated not in Poland but in England. So you Chartists must not simply express pious wishes for the liberation of nations. Defeat your own internal enemies and you will then be able to pride yourselves on having defeated the entire old society.

- Marx's speech to mark the 17th anniversary of the Polish uprising

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It was necessary, beyond everything else, to follow the development of the class struggle in the history of our own day, and to prove empirically, by the actual and daily newly created historical material, that with the subjugation of the working class, accomplished in the days of February and March, 1848, the opponents of that class – the bourgeois republicans in France, and the bourgeois and peasant classes who were fighting feudal absolutism throughout the whole continent of Europe – were simultaneously conquered; that the victory of the "moderate republic" in France sounded at the same time the fall of the nations which had responded to the February revolution with heroic wars of independence; and finally that, by the victory over the revolutionary workingmen, Europe fell back into its old double slavery, into the English-Russian slavery.

- Wage Labour & Capital Preliminary

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the defeat of June divulged to the despotic powers of Europe the secret that France must maintain peace abroad at any price in order to be able to wage civil war at home. Thus the people's who had begun the fight for their national independence were abandoned to the superior power of Russia, Austria, and Prussian, but at the same time the fate of these national revolutions was made subject to the fate of the proletarian revolution, and they were robbed of their apparent autonomy, their independence of the great social revolution. The Hungarian shall not be free, nor the Pole, nor the Italian, as long as the worker remains a slave!

- The Class Struggles in France 1848-50

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The colonial question has been thus posed in its fullest measure not only on the maps at the diplomatic congress in Paris but also within the colonies themselves. At best, Wilson’s program has as its task: to effect a change of labels with regard to colonial slavery. The emancipation of thecolonies is conceivable only in conjunction with the emancipation of the working class in the metropolises. The workers and peasants not only of Annam, Algiers, and Bengal, but also of Persia and Armenia,; will gain their opportunity of independent existence only in that hour when the workers of England and France, having overthrown Lloyd George and Clemenceau, will have taken state power into their own hands. Even now the struggle in the more developed colonies, while taking place only under the banner of national liberation, immediately assumes a more or less clearly defined social character. If capitalist Europe has violently dragged the most backward sections of the world into the whirlpool of capitalist relations, then socialist Europe will come to the aid of liberated colonies with her technology, her organization and her ideological influence in order to facilitate their transition to a planned and organized socialist economy.

Colonial slaves of Africa and Asia! The hour of proletarian dictatorship in Europe will strike for you as the hour of your own emancipation!


 

- Manifesto of the Comintern's First Congress

The last quote was, incidentally, written by Trotsky.