Monday, September 17, 2012

Trotsky, Lenin and the Stalinist General Line

BY  Kunal Chattopadhyay 

Trotsky’s greatest sin, it seems, was that he often disagreed with the “general line” of the party. Or so the contemporary devotees of Joseph Stalin would still like us to believe. Perhaps this should be viewed, rather, as Trotsky’s continuing commitment to the pre-Stalinist Marxist tradition, for which commitment to working class democracy, viewed as more expansive than the best that bourgeois democracy could afford to offer, and hence as his greatest legacy for socialists in the twenty-first century if they do not want to bow movingly to market forces, yet want to be relevant. For the days when one could say in a commanding tone, “this is the party line”, and expect everyone to lie down and play dead like tame dogs, are gone forever.

When Karl Marx started his political career, he began as a democrat. Unlike many earlier and contemporary socialists and communists, he did not advocate aneducational dictatorship of the party (or a group of wise and enlightened elite, by whatever name) over the working people. And his call for a “revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat” was not a call for party dictatorship. One has to remember that in the Paris Commune, there were very few people holding close to Marx’s views, and that moreover it was an elected body with laws far more democratic than anything that then existed in any liberal state. Yet both Marx and Engels unhesitatingly called the Commune a dictatorship of the proletariat.

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