Friday, June 11, 2021

Lukacs, Gramsci, Zizek and the Leninist Party

Gramsci has long been held by some self-proclaiming Trotskyists as a revolutionary figure who  complements Trotsky. This was always an attempt to assimilate Trotskyism to neo-Stalinism, Eurocommunism and Maoism, as currents within Euro Marxism. Today it is a more global attack on Trotsky and Lenin to boost the appeal of Menshevism when capitalism faces a terminal crisis that raises the spectre of revolution. Lukacs on the other hand, is less in favour with self-proclaiming Trotskyists because of his open capitulation to Stalin. 

Yet as we will see on the most important question of the vanguard party, Gramsci submitted to Stalinism whilst Lukacs never abandoned his position. Lukacs was a defender of Bolshevism against Menshevism and therefore against the influence of Gramsci in the formation of Euro Marxism. Here we will examine Lukacs on dialectics to critique the Euro-Marxism that falls short of a Leninist-Trotskyist standpoint.

For Lukacs the Hungarian Revolution was an abortion. A popular front of communists with social democrats, lacking a Leninist party, and with no successful German revolution to back it up. Lukacs (in History…) and his later defence of it (‘A Defense…’) argued that it was possible that the Hungarian revolution could have deepened as part of the European revolution, throwing out the social democrats and arming the workers, and so on. But the vanguard party was missing everywhere in Europe so ultimately the revolution was doomed.

Despite his theoretical brilliance and commitment to Marxism, Lukacs’ political life fleshes out Marx’s famous dictum that philosophers interpret the world but (in the absence of an international vanguard party) cannot change it. His devotion to Lenin and the Leninist Party, while second to none, didn’t survive the degeneration of the revolution. In that sense we cannot discount the implications of Lukacs’ capitulation to Stalinism.

Yet, the Bolshevik revolution proved his analysis of the necessity of the proletarian party as the class-conscious subject of history, correct, and made him the equal of the leading Bolsheviks. Then, when that party degenerated under Stalin into the instrument of the bureaucracy, Lukacs was again proven correct, but in the negative. So Lukacs was with Lenin and Trotsky, that without the democratic centralist party, organised as an international to make the revolution global, revolution was doomed to defeat.

When Zizek claims (in his post-face to ‘A Defence…’) that Lukacs' view of the party was to ‘fill the gap’ (lack) between objective and subjective reality, he was incorrect. There is a world of difference between Zizek’s voluntarist Lenin as the messianic figure above the party who wills the revolutionary ‘event’ (act) into being, and Lukacs’ conception of the democratic centralist party being the proletarian ‘subject’ as the class-for-itself.

If Lukacs held onto his Leninist position on the vanguard party despite his practical capitulation to Stalinism, Gramsci actively adapted to Stalinism on the question of the Party and program. Gramsci covered the bureaucratisation of the party with his theory of intellectuals. Traditional intellectuals served the ruling class while organic intellectuals served the revolutionary class. But in practice the party served the bureaucracy and its program therefore served the interests of the bureaucracy.

Communist Parties henceforth followed the line of the Third International, that in each country the international revolution had to be subordinated to Soviet foreign policy. The program of building socialism in one country, the SU, translated into a two-stage theory of revolution elsewhere. Gramsci disguised the Stalinist stage theory as a tactical question. In backward countries such as Russia the party could mount a ‘war of maneuver’. In the advanced European countries the necessary tactic was the ‘war of position’ – a euphemism for the democratic revolution.  In fact both tactics were variants of the popular front between the working class and the democratic bourgeoisie to build alliances with the SU.

In reality Gramsci rejects Lenin and Trotsky’s view (shared by Lukacs) that the German, Hungarian and other revolutions failed because they did not apply the Bolshevik model of an international permanent revolution. With this theory, Gramsci provided the theoretical cover for Menshevik stageism and the Eurocommunist rejection of Bolshevism which was already present in the Second International, and Kautskyism.  It gave rise to a Euro Marxism from Kautsky to Althusser and Zizek.

In fact, Zizek’s idealist take on the subject-object split resolved by a messianic leader such as Lenin, is a play on the Euro-Marxist tradition of Menshevik objectivism. It takes Euro-Marxism to its anti-Marxist extreme as it accompanied the decline and fall of Soviet world in the 1980s and 1990s. Zizek returns to Lukacs, like Derrida returns to Marx, (see St Jacques’) to ‘praise him’ and turn him into  a post-modernist who in the end has no faith in the proletariat to complete its historic mission but must turn to a messianic leap of faith.

If we trace the origins and evolution of Euro-Marxism we can easily see the influence of Gramsci. What begins as the degeneration of the vanguard party from democratic centralism to bureaucratic centralism is actually the programmatic victory of Menshevism over Bolshevism. The party no longer represents the proletariat-for-itself, but the petty bourgeois/bureaucratic intelligentsia-for-itself.

On the other hand, there is no doubt Lukacs follows Lenin and Trotsky on the Party and program as overcoming one-sided objectivism and subjectivism that must be resolved dialectically by the democratic centralist international communist party. The Bolshevik Party, led by Lenin and Trotsky and their successors in the ILO and the Fourth International tested theory in practice to develop revolutionary class consciousness. While Gramsci reified the Leninist party as a bureaucratized “intellectual” vanguard, Lukacs never changed his view that the party was the revolutionary subject, the class-in-itself, capable of changing objective reality.

Lukacs failure was to capitulate to Stalin and his unreconstructed Menshevism and not to publicly defend his conception of class-for-itself. The bureaucratic party now dictated the consciousness of the working masses. For that crime Lukacs’ revolutionary past was written off retrospectively as tainted by his Stalinist retreat.

Yet it was Gramsci who actively served Stalin against Trotsky. He opposed the International Left Opposition in the Chinese Revolution. That betrayal alone condemns those today who want to rescue Gramsci as a revolutionary. Trotsky was always willing to enter practical agreements with centrists to win them to the ILO, but never with those who had embraced Stalinism and Menshevism. For in that capitulation the Lessons of October are lost.

Tuesday, June 01, 2021

Stop escalating war drive between China and US!



The reviving of Trump’s ‘China Virus’ scare by Biden with no conclusive evidence is a political ruse to escalate the cold war with ‘communist’ China. ‘China Virus’ is cold war 2.0 code for ‘Red Menace’ the global threat to democracy and human rights. Every aspect of global politics is determined ultimately by the growing contest between the two main imperialist blocs - the US/EU and China/Russia over hegemonic control of the global economy. The main driver of this heightened competition is the global struggle between the rise of China and the decline of the US measured in economic growth and political and military power. To win each bloc must mobilise its proxies and rally its working masses to arms and victory over its rival. 

Every hotspot, or regime change in the world, is underwritten by this inter-imperialist rivalry. In Palestine, Israel wants US backing to smash Hamas, the tool of Iran, the regional ally of China/Russia. In Burma (renamed Myanmar by the military), the military coup leaders are puppets of China. In India, the US is pressuring the fascist Modi regime to break relations with China. In Ukraine there is a stalemate between the US/EU backed regime and the Russian annexed Crimea and Russian backed breakaway Donbass region. In Venezuela, Brazil, and South Africa, all members of the BRICS, the ruling class is divided in its subservience to the two blocs. In Australia, New Zealand and Samoa, Chinese interests are being resisted by US backed political forces. The list goes on as the two main blocs are vying for control of as many countries as they can to defend or extend their sphere of influence.

China Virus 2.0

In reviving the “China Virus” of Trump, Biden seeks two objectives. First, to rally support for his drive to stop China from overtaking the US as the hegemonic global power.  Second, to blind workers to the fundamental causes of SARS Covid 2, the climate change emergency that is disrupting habitats and causing viruses to jump species.  Even if the virus escaped the lab, its origins are outside the lab in the breakdown of the natural environment. Moreover, if workers question the real causes, they will end up blaming the Capitalocene the epoch of the rise and decline of capitalism destroying nature. That would open the road to mutinies against imperialist wars and fuel the socialist revolution. Therefore, to avoid another ‘weapons of mass destruction” farrago, expect Biden to double down with his 90-day report to produce the ‘proof’ that China deliberately released the Virus to destroy the West and become the new hegemonic power. 

Meanwhile, 90 days gives the intelligence and research apparatus of the US the time to build a clinching case to justify war. It also creates the opportunity to push the other issues to build a ring of military support around China. Netanyahu has engineered US backing for isolating the Arab state rulers from the Palestinian masses, and advancing his cause to destroy Iran’s influence in the region. Free vaccines to India would push Modi and the Quad into a military build-up against China in South Asia. Myanmar will become a human rights cause celebre in search of a candidate for a colour revolution. Australia, deputy dog for the US in the region, will foam at the mouth to put its ships into the South China Sea to agitate for democracy and freedom of movement. Japan and DRK are already tied to their US bases in readiness. In Samoa the standoff between the longstanding Government which has negotiated a major new port with China, against a newly created opposition demanding power to cancel the deal, feigns to be a fight over democracy and the constitution, and not over which imperialist power will call the shots. 

Uyghurs, democracy and human rights

Regarding China itself, the surveillance sources of US imperialism, its ability to dictate the ‘news’ agenda, and its ability to rely on subservient, chauvinist, neo-Stalinist left hackery, are mobilised to brand China as a Red dictatorship and an abuser of the human rights of the Uyghurs. Of course, as a capitalist and rising imperialist power, it would be strange if China was not anti-democracy and anti-human rights. China is no worse, maybe better, than every other imperialist power in history, most certainly the USA. Not only that, most of these powers had a hand in oppressing China since the 19th century, tried to smash the peasant-based national revolution, and then isolated it to force an opening of its borders. Finally, failing to subjugate it once more as a colony, when China rose again as an imperialist power, these former oppressors have the hypocrisy to claim the moral high ground on democracy and human rights. 

As revolutionary Marxists we oppose all abuses of bourgeois democracy and human rights, including those of China. We are for the self-determination of Hong Kong, but we oppose the role of the US in dividing Hong Kong workers from mainland Chinese workers. We are for the self-determination of the Taiwanese indigenous peoples, pushed aside by the retreating KMT following the 1949 revolution. China asserts its territorial rights to both Hong Kong, formerly occupied by Britain, and Taiwan, now an armed outpost of the US.  We also fight for the right to self-determination of the Uyghurs, Tibetans and all other oppressed minorities. But self-determination from Hong Kong to Tibet will fail, short of a Chinese socialist revolution to overthrow the Red Bourgeoisie and to create a Workers’ and Farmers’ Government. That in turn would not be possible short of the victory of the world revolution that overthrows all the imperialist powers and their lackeys and replaces them with a world federation of socialist republics.

For the World Revolution!

To be clear we oppose any war between imperialist powers as we do all their proxy wars. This would be a world war in which the allies on all sides are dragged into the war. A war between the US and its allies, and China and its allies, would end human civilisation much more abruptly than global warming. To avoid a real holocaust, workers in every country must build an international united front to intervene with its armed forces in support of all anti-imperialist struggles, against both the imperialist enemy and the national bourgeois enemy. Such United Fronts exist in a rudimentary form, as in workers' blockades of arms and munitions to Israel, armed solidarity with the Syrian Revolution, and the international XR movement when and if it goes beyond civil disobedience to organised workers’ actions. This level is a step towards the internationalism required for a global workers united front. But that can only come out of a new world leadership composed of a revolutionary party and program that does not capitulate to either the US/EU bloc or the China/Russia bloc.

The new leadership that is lacking is that of a Trotskyist International rebuilt on the theory and program of the defunct 4th International. For Trotsky, like Marx and Lenin, since the mid-19th century the only progressive way forward for humanity was for the Permanent Revolution led by the Party of class- conscious workers. Today this means a world party with branches in every country with a program to defeat imperialism, its crises and wars, and its national bourgeois comprador allies. To win workers to this program we fight for transitional demands for elementary economic and political rights that capitalism cannot deliver and which can only be won by workers themselves. This drives workers to fight for workers control which brings them up against the state apparatuses, and in defence to form armed communes or councils as a base for a Workers’ and Farmers’ Government. By uniting these struggles internationally as one fight for one revolution, workers can realise the power they have to smash capitalism and open the road to socialism.