Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

July 30, 2021

Eric Blanc, the Finnish Revolution of 1918 and Voting Democrat

Filed under: Counterpunch,DSA,Jacobin,Kautsky,reformism,social democracy — louisproyect @ 3:39 pm


Eric Blanc

Seven years ago, Eric Blanc’s “National liberation and Bolshevism reexamined: A view from the borderlands”made quite a splash, at least within the tiny world of Marxist scholarship. I welcomed a defense of those caught in the Czarist prison-house of nations, especially those that hoped to make revolutions themselves. At the time, Blanc had not yet become a Social Democrat. Therefore, there were little inklings that “the borderlands” would become a lynchpin for his aggressive attacks on revolutionary socialism that made their most recent appearance recently in a Jacobin article titled “Socialists Should Take the Right Lessons From the Russian Revolution”.

The “right lessons” turned out to be that the only “plausible path to socialist transformation in parliamentary countries is a radical form of democratic socialism.” And guess what that “radical form” amounts to: “socialists should only take executive office like presidencies during a socialist revolution.” In other words, Lenin was all wrong. He should not have fought for Soviet power but waited as if the “socialist revolution” were an embryo in the ninth month. Blanc would still insist that he is an orthodox Marxist, but Karl Marx made it patently clear that the dictatorship of the proletariat would not rest on “executive office.” Instead an armed people would rule in their own name—the Paris Commune, in other words.

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  1. I have been reading the draft of István Mészáros’s final work, on the State, to be published next year by Monthly Review Press. It is brilliant, and it puts the nails in the coffin of social democracy. It was through him that Hugo Chavez developed his ideas of building a new society from the bottom up. The communes established in Venezuela are an excellent example of self-governing mini-societies of workers and peasants. They are still going strong, even in the face of crippling US sanctions and a current government that has failed them badly. Here is a link to an article that gives some on the ground and up to date information of one such commune. (https://venezuelanalysis.com/interviews/15268?fbclid=IwAR0U9VT142CC81bc0GZa-p4FyQBlnKNyKj1zfJEAbJmxI3ZCvmW25M6Fixc). Yes, a new party is needed, but it must be one committed to substantive equality and that any new state must put into practices organizations like these communes, so that as higher-level organizations are built, more and more production, distribution, and all other aspects of a new mode of production are democratically controlled and committed to substantive equality, so that the trajectory is toward the withering away of the state. See Michael Lebowitz’s fine essay here: https://monthlyreview.org/2014/03/01/proposing-path-socialism-two-papers-hugo-chavez/. Blanc and all those like him have nothing on offer. Period. It is they who are delusional.

    Comment by Michael Daniel Yates — July 30, 2021 @ 9:14 pm

  2. I am old enough to have listened to men who remembered the Irish Civil War, some as young participants and the others as eyewitnesses. Compared to events in Finland, the ICW was a day at the beach.

    In the course of the ICW there were IRA assassinations, IRA ambushes and National Army firing squads and one infamous and much-commemorated atrocity – a National Army unit which had endured ambushes fastened some Republican prisoners to a mine and detonated it – one, quite astonishingly, survived..

    Unlike events in Finland, the ICW did NOT feature mass rape of *Red* female prisoners followed by mass murder (committed by *Whites*) or the mass murders of prisoners – committed by *Reds* as they retreated.

    Comment by Billy Corr — July 31, 2021 @ 7:09 pm

  3. Thanks for the knowledge; it is very much appreciated.

    Comment by utejack — August 1, 2021 @ 1:38 am

  4. I agree with you, Louie, if the SWP had dropped the Trot nonsense circa 1969 and had become a more open, broad left current, we might very well have had 30,000–or even 50,000–adherents today. Such a “small mass party” would likely have made a difference. Perhaps we would have been able to transcend the neoliberal, identity politics thrust of much of today’s “left.”

    Comment by Kurt T Hill — August 2, 2021 @ 7:43 pm

  5. A few points, Louis, and I hope you’re doing well.

    1. I wonder in the discussions of Kautsky and social democracy that the promoters of this nonsense forget the disaster of 1914, when the Second International caved in and supported WWI. This meant that, for example, German social democrats were killing French and British SDs.

    2. The neo-Kautskyites neglect that the German SD played a major role in the suppressing of the German Revolution of 1919.

    3. The German SD failed to develop an anti-fascist strategy in German in the 1920s, with results we know.

    4. The SDs of the world played a major role in the Cold War.

    5.In the US in the 1960s, SDs such as Harrington and Rustin took no role in the antiwar movement.

    6. Just at the point where the SWP threw itself into the antiwar movement, with a petit-bourgeois program, the IS took its turn towards the working class as the working class upsurge was in motion. Before this surge ended, the IS had built rank-and-file caucuses in many unions, including auto, steel, post office (my turf) and, most important Teamsters. The IS-aided Teamsters for a Decent Contract became Teamsters for a Decent Union – TDU – which exists to this day.

    7. Just as the British SWP sabotaged the IS, elements from the IS organized Labor Notes, which exists to this day.

    Comment by davidberger6799 — August 5, 2021 @ 7:56 pm

  6. “Just at the point where the SWP threw itself into the antiwar movement, with a petit-bourgeois program, the IS took its turn towards the working class as the working class upsurge was in motion. ” Oh, horseshit.

    Comment by louisproyect — August 5, 2021 @ 8:17 pm

  7. With regard to the SWP and its work in the antiwar movement, I found this relatively early document to be interesting.


    Comment by davidberger6799 — August 5, 2021 @ 11:25 pm

  8. Yeah, a schmuck like you would find it interesting. “To imprison the antiwar movement in the U.S. in the single issue of peace in Vietnam.” Yeah, I heard that Peter Camejo used to torture activists who challenge the SWP at conferences. And this is pure Spart diarrhea:

    “In reality, a more tangible and quicker possibility for the withdrawal of U.S. armed forces from Vietnam could be accomplished if the National Liberation Front can drive them into the China Sea. This is the active revolutionary solution to the question. But there is no hint of recognition in our literature that this is the most favorable alternative.”

    Berger, you are a fucking sectarian pinhead. Go away.

    Comment by louisproyect — August 5, 2021 @ 11:52 pm

  9. Louis, I have a lot of respect for you as a thinker, writer and revolutionary. But please remember: I was there as an active revolutionary all throught the 60s and 70s. I was a witness as the SWP consistently tried to keep the antiwar movement away from the working class.

    In quoting from the document, I originally thought I would include a remark that it definitely had ultra-left elements to it. I should have. But you’ve picked out one quote and ignored the thrust of the document: an analysis of the role of the SWP in the antiwar movement.

    As i said in opening, Louis, I do respect you. So if you would addressed my points instead of engaging in poliitical cursing, we might get somewhere.

    Comment by davidberger6799 — August 6, 2021 @ 12:51 am

  10. Are you mentally ill posting shit here from the Spartacist League archives? I’ll punch you in the mouth if I ever run into you again.

    Comment by louisproyect — August 6, 2021 @ 1:20 am

  11. As a contribution to this discussiion, here’s ANOTHE and R SWP document, assessing their antiwar work. What’s most evident to me is that the strategy was, basically, a single-issue antiwar movement and using that movement to move the working class.


    Comment by davidberger6799 — August 6, 2021 @ 2:30 am

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