01 November 2011

Bolshevism: an Occupational hazard?

The Albany occupation has survived a pre-season winter storm and seems poised to settle into Academy Park for the long term with considerable indulgence from city authorities. Already, however, some people are asking what the next step should be. A poster up on some Albany streets invites interested people to a meeting at the Pine Hills branch of the public library this weekend. The meeting is being organized by the International Bolshevik Tendency, one of the groups most often cited by reactionaries who hope to discredit the occupations by association with Marxists and other "extremists." The name certainly betrays a certain tone-deafness among Tendency members. The IBT is a Trotskyist group, which means that they're revolutionary globalists who feel that Leninism went wrong when Stalin committed to "socialism in one country" rather than world revolution. The Tendency is one of many groups you may encounter working the occupations with leaflets, pamphlets and journals. They should be welcomed -- the occupations need to be open to anyone who wants to contribute ideas -- but they should also be scrutinized, since the obvious purpose of any ostensibly Leninist outfit is to hawk a ready-made "scientific" revolutionary model as an alternative to the occupations generating something original on their own. Leninists always strike me as people who simply want the power to give orders that others unjustly possess, but their historical experience might yet prove useful to movements with a less authoritarian agenda.

The IBT has been distributing literature at "Occupy demonstrations around the world," presumably including Albany. A pamphlet tailor-made for the occupations declares that "Capitalism Can't Be Fixed." It traces the present global economic crisis to the "internationalization of financial speculation" and the securitization of subprime mortgages -- a private-sector rather than public-sector initiative. IBT hopes to tap into the widespread, transpartisan anger over the financial-sector bailouts, while insisting that  "A modern economy can only transcend the anarchic chaos of capitalism through reorganizing production on a collectivized, i.e., socialist, basis." Inevitably, IBT adds that "There is no other way for humanity to escape the madhouse of capitalism" than a revolution on the Marx-Lenin-Trotsky model. That supposedly means "the direct rule of the working class and the oppressed," though Bolshevism actually proposes nothing of the sort, at least for starters. IBT specifically proposes the expropriation of banks and corporations, a "bailout" of some sort for the homeless, and full employment with "a 30 hour workweek at 40 hours pay." It also recommends strikes to resist layoffs and wage cuts. Again, each proposal should be weighed on its own merits, and not taken as part of the inevitable "line" a Leninist wants to sell. If Leninists and Trotskyists still believe in vanguards, they're really looking at one whenever they visit an occupation. They have no business promoting themselves as the future leaders of any occupation; their preoccupations with doctrine disqualify them. But if the occupations evolve in a small-s socialist or small-c communist direction, there's nothing wrong with that. It's really up to the occupiers, because that's how democracy works.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

They really need to drop the "bolshevik" moniker and adopt something new, original and compelling. Leninism lost all of it's political credentials with the various pogroms it adopted. The sad fact is, any political group cannot possibly organize and energize a world-wide socialist movement. It seems to me one must adopt such a movement in a developed economy first so that others have a working model to motivate less developed countries.

Although I personally do not like the idea of violence, I am becoming more and more convinced that only through the very real threat of violence against capitalists at the top (not political targets, but economic targets) can real change be forced - and make no mistake - forced it must be. Those at the top simply have no motivation to give up their power and wealth. Arguments and ethics are useless. Only fear of death and poverty can be of any use against those who hold all the cards.