Monday, 13 October 2008

The Death Agony of Trotskyism (Part 3482)

I was never a Trotskyist. In my youth I used to have to justify this politically, so I'd deploy arguments like this:

  • Er - capitalism isn't in a death agony. How do I know? Because , er, most people seem to be much better off than their parents were. (Yeah, not my finest hour of socialist theory that one, I know...but true nonetheless).
  • I never really cared whether the Soviet Union was a degenerated workers state, a deformed workers state, state capitalist or simply a form of 'actual existing socialism' I didn't want to replicate. The question was: is anything like that likely to happen here - and Gramsci helped me see that the West was different ....
  • I always found the concept of Transitional Demands to be, well, simply a bit silly. As I understand it the idea behind them are to demand something which sounds reasonable but which capitalism simply cannot concede in a structural sense. In other words demand the impossible wrapped up as the possible. I never believed that was a good way of getting people to agree with you - they pretty soon worked out you were using them, not working with them in their own immediate interests.
  • I was also always wary of the 'golden thread' style of argument - you know, "If Marx/Lenin/Trotsky were here today they'd agree with my group on everything...we are the true inheritors." Get a life I always thought – this is just Talmudic thought, not any kind of practical analysis about what to do next. But this 'golden thread' strain also prevented many - not all, to be fair – Trots looking critically at the wider inheritance. So , to take the most obvious example, in my day most Trotskyist groups were far keener on publishing loads of stuff showing Stalin wasn't, in fact, the true inheritor of Lenin than on challenging the dubious nature of, say, Leninist democratic centralism – or even his theory of Imperialism – in the first place.

But mainly I wasn't a Trot because it always, always ended up with this sort of silliness. The Socialist Party (nee Militant) and SWP having a row about demo expenses and other practical, organisational stuff, but drawing all sorts of 'political' points about each other in doing so. The subsequent discussion on the thread should be studied as an object lesson in the petty-mindedness and habitual venomous expression of a tradition in which all too many good people have sunk without trace. I really can't be doing with it.

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