[Marxism] In Defense of Harrington and American Menshevism

sobuadhaigh at hushmail.com sobuadhaigh at hushmail.com
Wed Dec 31 18:04:57 MST 2008

Louis Wrote:
>One bitter lesson I have learned about politics is that when an
>opportunity is squandered, it is very difficult to regain lost
>ground. In the 1970s and 80s, the radicalized youth went off into
>Maoist and Trotskyist cloud cuckooland and a great potential to
>build a radical political movement was wasted.
In thinking back to the era of the 70's and 80's I wonder if there 
was any radical alternative to "cloud cuckooland" in United States. 
As I recall the Democratic Socialists of America presented 
themselves as just such an "opportunity" via joining the Democratic 
as the "left wing of the possible." I heard Harrington speak in  
Houston in the late 70's decrying the conservatism of Jimmy Carter 
and wondered just how his followers were going to counteract the 
right wing lurch of American politics. They clearly did not.

Whatever the worth of Harrington's writing, the implication that 
his political vision was akin to the Mensheviks is both inaccurate 
and insulting. E. N. Burdzhalov's work on the unity of many 
Bolshevik and Menshevik groups both in 1905 and then again 
throughout 1917 is worth looking in this regard. Leonard Shapiro 
summarized the work of historians such as Burdzhalov,  Ankiyev and 
writing for the journal Voprosy Istorii as showing that,

"..in 1905 the Mensheviks had been every bit as revolutionary as 
the Bolsheviks; or that the main blow against the Provisional 
Government in February 1917, the setting up of the Petrograd 
Soviet, had been the work of Mensheviks and not the Bolsheviks; 
or that before the arrival of Lenin in Petrograd in 1917, and even 
after, there was considerable identity of views and indeed of 
organizations between Bolsheviks and Mensheviks, and that the party 
picture of shining revolutionary truth on the one side and 
opportunist treachery on the other was a myth."

Even the series of lectures on the history of the Communist Party 
(Bolshevik) delivered by  Zinoviev in 1923 praised Martov’s 
“History of Russian Social- Democracyas “instructive” from which 
“much can be learned.”

By this standard a true American Menshevism would be an improvement 
on what we currently have now.

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