MARXIST STUDY CIRCLES

Louis N Proyect lnp3 at columbia.edu
Sat Dec 30 10:17:40 MST 1995


On Sat, 30 Dec 1995, Karl Carlile wrote:

> The problem with the Russian revolution was just that: The fact that Lenin
> was in a minority on the issue of whether to seize state power or not. This
> encapsulates the very problem of the European revolution. Its very weakness.
> The Russian revolution was an expression of the very weakness of the
> European revolution. The events that followed including the collapse of the
> Soviet Union are testimony to this.
> 

Louis: Revolutions always occur "prematurely". They occur when 
millions of people refuse to live under existing conditions of capitalist 
oppression. During the August days of 1917, the Russian workers took to 
the street determined to take power. The Bolsheviks, including Lenin, 
told them the time wasn't ripe. They waited until October, when the 
peasants had reached a fever-pitch also. But if the Bolshevik leaders had 
refused to lead them at this point, there probably would have been some 
kind of insurrectionary push despite them.

Revolutionaries are not in the same position as college professors, as 
Carlos Vilas told the audience at a Brecht Forum symposium on Lenin a 
month or so ago. Vilas, who taught at Columbia last year, was asked by 
his department to give some course or another. He turned them down, 
saying he wasn't prepared. Lenin and the Bolsheviks didn't have that 
luxury. Revolutions, by their very nature, occur in circumstance of 
economic and social catastrophe.

When Somoza was murdering the children of Nicaragua for demanding the 
right to have elementary freedoms, the Sandinistas took to the mountains 
gun in hand to depose the dictator. They didn't wait for Karl and other 
intellectuals to finish their study of Capital. When the Sandinistas took 
power, the economy was a mess after years of war and a major earthquake. 
None of them were trained economists or sure how to run the Nicaraguan 
economy. I and other North American volunteers provided technical 
assistance. We and they did the best we could, but we weren't successful. 
This is the fate of socialists in this epoch.

The working-class is to the bourgeoisie as the bourgeois was to the 
feudal aristocracy. It is a revolutionary class that will usher in a more 
progressive mode of production. There is a big difference, however. The 
bougeoisie matures over hundreds of years within the cocoon of feudal 
society. It develops wealth, cultural and political skills. The workers, 
despite their growth numerically and their social power, remain culturally 
and politically impoverished. When they make a revolution, there are huge 
tasks that await them. The Russian revolution was a worse case scenario. For 
an idea of how socialism might look under more optimum circumstances, I 
recommend study of Cuba during the Brezhnev years. Perhaps the electoral 
victory of Communists in the former Soviet Union might bode well for this 
beleagured revolutionary island.


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