Saturday, June 28, 2008

Social Democracy for Africa? Part 4

Carried on from Part 3; also see: Part 1 and Part 2

Today, “Cold War-like” proxy battlegrounds are being prepared in Africa against emerging opportunistic bourgeois rivals from the East, notably China, to the big business interests of the major capitalist colonial economies. Earlier elsewhere (clickable), the present author said:

“With the growth of local industry through "protectionism" [and fueled by the Slave Trade, in the case of capitalist colonial economic powers], as was the case in the capitalist colonial economic powers, nations were able to develop sufficiently large home markets for their local industry, and only when they became large enough to compete globally, did governments relax "protectionism", but all the while doing everything possible to deter fledgling industries of the economically less advantaged nations from flourishing, by telling the governments of those nations to not resort to "protectionism" for the sake of "fair trade". The capitalist jargon for that concept is, “free-market trade”, wherein capitalist economic powers proceed to sell manufactured goods at competitive prices—facing virtually no trade barriers with the lifting of tariffs in the destination economies—and thereby crushing fledgling local industries therein, which are overwhelmed by unfettered stiff competition from bigger foreign corporations, while at the same time, buying cheap or free colonial-allocated land and exploiting abundant pool of “cheap” labor at what ultimately amounts to slave-labor wages. Variably, governments of those "less advantaged nations" of course cooperated accordingly, to the peril of their own economies—this seems to be the case for many economies in Africa.

Part of the reason [of the spineless compromise by ruling bourgeois African layers] had to do with military pressure from the capitalist colonial economic powers, and part of it had to do with debt-regime leveraging by those same colonial economic powers. When many of the formerly colonized regions of Africa got their so-called "independence", many of them also inherited debts incurred by their local colonial regimes. Moreover, as many sections of their societies were devastated by lack of social spending under colonial occupation, many of the "newly independent" African regimes had to borrow money, in many cases from the very same colonial regimes that they sought to free themselves from, for social reconstruction programs. As a result, many ended up incurring hefty debts, which former colonial regimes sought to exploit and use as economic leverage to place dictates on the "newly independent" and usually weak economies. The vehicles used to utilize debt-regimes as leverage, are the likes of IMF and World Bank. Political leverage was continued through the setting up of institutions like the United Nations, and the undemocratic and "permanent" membership of certain "wealthy" nations therein.”

Additionally, with respect to those debts, it is necessary to revisit how capitalist colonial economic powers begrudgingly gave out loans, and so-called financial assistance; In light of the Cold War, Ann Talbot spells it out:

“In this situation [Cold War environment] they realised that they must rely on the Pan-African movement to control the growing protests. The [British] Foreign Office pointed out that “Pan-Africanism, in itself, is not necessarily a force that we need regard with suspicion and fear. On the contrary, if we can avoid alienating it and guide it on lines generally sympathetic to the free world, it may well prove in the longer term a strong, *indigenous barrier to the penetration of Africa by the Soviet Union.*”

A necessary part of this perspective was to provide the independent African regimes with aid. “If Africa is to remain loyal to the Western cause, its economic interests must coincide with, and reinforce, its political sympathies; and one of the major problems of the relationship between the West and Africa will be to ensure an adequate flow of economic assistance, and particularly capital, through various channels to the newly emerging States. On any reckoning the amounts required will be considerable; and, if the Western Powers are unreasonably insensitive to the economic aspirations of independent Africa, the Governments of the new states may be compelled to turn to the Soviet Union for the assistance that they will certainly need...”

As already noted above, the capitalist colonial economic powers knew very well that governments of the “newly independent” states “certainly needed” financial assistance, given that they [the colonial regimes] were the ones responsible for total economic devastation in those states. So, it was up to them to jump in quickly to fill up the role that would have otherwise been open to the Soviet Union, given the colonial legacy of capitalist colonial economic powers. Today, China and others from the East seek to fill up the vacancy created by the demise of the Soviet Union in exploiting gaps in the capitalist colonial economic powers’ ever diminishing financial assistance to bourgeois regimes in Africa. The “free world” mentioned in the British Foreign Office’s statement is capitalist jargon for “free-market”, which entails privatization and deregulation of big business spanning the entire industrial sector and the agricultural sector, and even to social sectors, thereby “making the government as small as possible”— capitalist jargon for effectively reducing, if not eliminating, the role of government in consolidation of the aforementioned sectors via nationalization and spending on social welfare. As one might recall, the Soviets were relatively late in building up military bases in Africa, and started out largely with exploiting calls for assistance in the then emerging so-called “newly independent” African states. So, there is talk of the need for resurgent effort by the capitalist colonial economic powers to consolidate their role and presence in Africa. In the US for instance, presidential-hopeful Barack Obama says this:

“The Chinese are everywhere throughout Africa. They are building roads...bridges...government buildings...hospitals...We’re not doing that because we don’t think it is important and, over time, that’s going to have an enormous impact on us

But in all this, one aspect should not allowed to be lost; the opportunistic embracing of Pan-African nationalism by the capitalist colonial economic powers.

With regards to military pressure on bourgeois regimes in less economically advantaged economies, this has particularly increased since the demise of the Soviet Union; the US has particularly become more ruthlessly reckless in its foreign policy, upon assuming the role of “sole superpower”. With respect to uncooperative bourgeois regimes of minor economies, the approach usually goes like this:

*First economic isolation and [double-standard] propaganda against the regime, to energize local dissident political elements [usually by propping up "western"-friendly bourgeoisie elements] and instill popular uprising which would collapse the regime; if that doesn’t work, then:

* paramilitary action via covert coup or assassination attempts; and if that doesn’t work, then:

*full blown military action to toss out the regime.

These steps can be seen in the example of the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein, a former “Western stooge”, when he was compelled to make the “wrong decision” in attaining more capital. One or the other of these steps now seem to be under play or is under way in Zimbabwe, in attempts to root out another former unwavering “Western stooge” turned “anti-western“ tyrant: Robert Mugabe, who also made the wrong “decisions” in an attempt to attain capital for his crumbling economy, brought about by his resolute subservience to IMF and World Bank instructions.

On this point, again Talbot chimes in:

“While relations were often tense between the new Pan-Africanist leaders and the West, there was a general recognition that their apparently socialist policies, particularly the provision of welfare measures, were the price to be paid for preventing a further upsurge of popular protest and strikes.

Pan-Africanist leaders were able to maintain a certain ability to maneuver because of the Cold War, which allowed them to extract more concessions from the West than would otherwise have been possible. But if they overstepped a fine line they could find themselves victim of a Western backed coup, as did Nkrumah, or even of assassination. The Belgian, British and US governments all concluded that Patrice Lumumba had to be murdered when he called on the Soviet Union to send troops to support his government in the Congo. Others such as Nyerere survived because they proved their usefulness to the West in the Cold War. Whatever befell them later does not alter the fact that these “African Socialists” were put in power by the colonial regimes because of their ability to prevent a genuine socialist movement developing in Africa.

The power-aspiring bourgeois figures who joined popular anti-colonial uprisings by self-appointing themselves as the articulators of popular dissent, were able “to prevent a genuine socialist movement”, precisely because they sought to draw phenomenal personal wealth within the framework of the socio-economic order set up by local colonial regimes by way of shallow populist rhetoric of Pan-African tinged “nationalism”; they didn't seek doing away with the said socio-economic order. It is no wonder then, colonial drawn political boundaries have virtually been left untouched by bourgeois regimes in “newly independent” African states; this even as they speak of “Pan-Africanism” and “African Union”. So, in this day and age, when one sees ruling African bourgeois give unfettered access to big business interests of capitalist colonial economic powers, it must be understood that they do so, with the understanding that a thin layer of the African bourgeois also benefits from this, at the expense of the African proletariat. This brings us to the importance of mass popular anti-colonial uprising in compelling local colonial regimes to issue symbolic “independence”:

“With the end of the Cold War the West has been emboldened to pull the plug on the policies that its aid has financed in Africa. Yet there remains a certain anxiety in Lancaster's mind. She implicitly recognizes that it was the growth of strikes and social movements that obliged the colonial powers to grant independence. The “African socialists” [Lancaster’s jargon for the African bourgeois] she condemns played a vital role in containing this development within the framework of nationalism. She expresses the concern that in dispensing with Pan-Africanism, the West may have replaced “an economically unsustainable development model with one that could eventually prove to be politically unsustainable if the pace of economic progress failed to accelerate.” With an instinct for the interests of the ruling class, she is aware that the real threat to corporate profits came not from the Pan-Africanists, but from the African working class and impoverished masses—and can do so again.” - Ann Talbot

A swell summarization; Pan-African “nationalism”, as has other forms of nationalism, has ended up disarming the African masses while leaving the socio-economic order set up by local colonial regimes intact. With its promises of a revolutionary development for the African proletariat, it actually ended up being counterrevolutionary. Notwithstanding its all-inclusive catchphrase, “Pan-Africanism” in Africa has largely taken the shape of nationalism at state level as opposed to continental-wide level; that is to say, ‘nationalism in one country’. This can be readily seen from the fact that colonial-drawn political boundaries have virtually been left untouched, since the so-called “independence” of African states. This was also a sure sign, that Pan-Africanist led regimes could be counted on in maintaining colonial hold on the territories without overt colonial military presence. What colonialism did, was that it ‘proletarianised’ African masses into the modern working class within the capitalist framework. This unintended outcome of capitalist colonialism was to also become its major threat; the African working classes expanded in the aftermath of the World War, as opposed to the vice versa, and the rural areas were bridged with the urban centers even more so. The result was that, with evermore repressive exploitation by local capitalist colonial regimes, the African proletariat grew more and more radicalized, leading to growing mass anti-colonial uprisings, not unlike other mass uprisings seen across Europe and elsewhere at beginning of the 20th century, in the aftermath of the first World War.

Today, some fervent capitalist apologists claim that the problem with Africa, is that Europeans didn’t colonize it long enough, and interestingly enough, the capitalist colonial regimes actually intended to remain there much longer, if not indefinitely, but it was the tenacity of the African working class to be free that earned them “independence”, which turned out to be “token independence” thanks to the high-jacking of popular anti-colonial movements by bourgeois “Pan-Africanists”. So, the main problem with Africa, is precisely that it was colonized and raped by European capitalist colonial economies and that bourgeois “Pan-Africanists” derailed mass African movements, by high-jacking them and subordinating them to colonial socio-economic order, and in doing so, helping Europeans to continue raping and exploiting Africa; the problem is not, as colonial apologists like Lancaster say, i.e. due to “African socialism” a capitalist jargon for bourgeois “Pan-Africanism”or innate inability of Africans to govern by themselves. The problem was and remains that the bourgeois “Pan-Africanists” rescued European colonialism from genuine social revolution of the African proletariat. So, capitalism has definitely been a disaster for Africans. We’ve also gone through in great length, how the revolutionary social democracy plan put in place in the October Russian revolution aftermath had digressed into a counterrevolutionary formthat is, Stalin’s ‘socialism in one country’ [the anti-thesis of Marxist thought] bureaucratic apparatus, ultimately brought about by the defeat of the European working classes, who were just weakened by the Great War and deteriorating economic situation. The Stalin bureaucratic apparatus’ relative isolation compelled it to turn to more opportunistic and counterrevolutionary antics both in Russia and abroad, thereby discrediting the communist apparatus to broad masses, including those in Africa. So, obviously Stalin’s brand of socialism proved to be a disaster as well, and this brings us right back to the question posed: what about “social democracy” based on Marxist thought, which means ultimately doing away with statehood/nation-state, and political dictatorship of the working proletariat?

When asked for a viable alternative solution for the cause of the working proletariat, opponents of social democracy are hard pressed to come up with one that precludes well, either capitalism or social democracy. Human social evolution culminated into consolidation of hierarchical society under centralized ruling system, and interestingly enough, the earliest attested hierarchical-structured complexspanning a large territorybrought under central-governing to be deemed a true nation state, took place on the northeast corner of the continent. But human social evolution is ongoing, and has not stunted or reached its final course upon attaining the modern industrial social structure, as capitalist apologists like to rationalize. The industrial revolution which was fueled by the Slave Trade and led to colonialism, created the modern industrial working class out of the working masses of both feudal or semi-feudal social structures and other pre-existing forms of socio-economic order.

With the rise of the modern working proletariat, and with the ever acute social contradictions of bourgeois socio-economic apparatusdominated by capitalism in the global network, a new workers’ mass movement had emerged by the turn of 19th century, and especially in the aftermaths of the first and second World Wars. On and off stabilization of capitalism and Stalin's betrayal of socialism have in some ways delayed successful workers’ revolution towards a social democracy path, but as globalization progresseswhich at the moment serves to do away with national political boundaries only for big businessworking classes across the globe get more and more alert to their common socio-economic hardships. The communications revolution only speeds up this process. This coupled with globalization, as the system develops, will facilitate faster-paced and wider ranging spread of organization-effort campaigns for the working class, for thus faras history has shown time and againworking class organization in a single country often leads to unionism, which doesn’t have enough clout, is susceptible to bourgeois infiltration and is quickly brought under bourgeois handle...because of both the proletariat's insufficient understanding of the precise nature of the complex socio-economic apparatus of which the waged worker is a small part, and lack of genuine workers’ political party. Be as it may, from the African working proletariat [as with any other] standpoint, the only way to find out the benefits of a social democracy governed from a purely materialistic standpoint [as opposed to idealism which breeds reaction through sectarianism; government should be separated from religion, just as science has], is to give it a shot, allow it to blossom and ultimately do away with the concept of statehood, which almost always guarantees counterrevolution!

—Quotes, courtesy of

Friday, June 27, 2008

Social Democracy for Africa? Part 3

Continued from Part 2

Recalling on the Monbiot reform ideas that were recommended here, vis-à-vis proper and fair African integration into the global economy, via democratization of international institutions like UN and WTO, while doing away with debt creating & collecting regimes like the World Bank and IMF; well, these would obviously be short term measures, which would have been done in the sort of “transitory period” mentioned above, since social democracy was and is expected to be protracted, and attained at a yet undetermined time. It is dependent on the readiness of the proletariat in not only minor economies, but also in major capitalist economies. In the long term, these measures cannot be viable substitutions for social democracy, in alleviating not only the internal contradictions of a capitalist economy, but also on the global scale. Simply put, the changes recommended by Monbiot, though certainly doable in the short run, have not yet been undertaken, precisely because they are incompatible with the capitalist apparatus. Consider for instance this piece,

June 24, 2008

The City of London is to cancel its free-parking concession for electric vehicles because... the scheme has become too successful.

Battery-car maker NICE has branded the move "barmy" and pointed out that it has come in the week the British government is expected to publish its renewable energy strategy - which will point to the benefits of boosting the market for electric vehicles.

"The reasons for scrapping this incentive are plain daft," said NICE co-founder Julian Wilford. "The city’s Department of Environmental Services has said free parking encourages people to use electric cars; surely that’s the point?

"Electric cars emit no air pollutants or carbon dioxide and are far cleaner than conventional cars, buses and taxis. We think the city’s decision has nothing to do with improving the environment but everything to do with short-term financial gain."

The company has welcomed moves by forward-thinking authorities such as Westminster Council. Working with EDF, the Energy Saving Trust and Transport for London, Westminster has installed 10 new "juice points" across - on-street charging sockets for battery cars. More local authorities are now following Westminster’s lead by offering incentives such as residents’ parking concessions and free charging facilities.

"Automakers are moving mountains to bring electric models to market but we have cars on sale now," Wilford said.

"Removing the parking incentive creates uncertainty at a time when people need clear, long-term signals on the benefits of clean electric motoring."

Courtesy of

An example of a good thing being incompatible with capitalist objectives. If nothing else, it shows that capitalism isn’t necessarily a progressive vehicle for technology; rather, in certain cases, it actually purposefully impedes important technological progression. In fact, the electric vehicle technology had all along been with us since the early 20th century, and yet even now—in the 21st century, society isn’t being allowed to take full advantage of it. The heavy-polluting internal combustion engine was thus outmoded a long time ago. Another example, say in the US, is the crumbling infrastructure; most notably exemplified by the recent Minneapolis bridge collapse, and the breaking levees across parts of the nation. In light of the recent flooding events in Louisiana and the US Midwest for example, it was repeatedly brought to government attention over the years, that the preexisting levees were outmoded and were in need of replacement by better designed and more robust types, yet virtually nothing has since been done to correct the problem. Funding for moving forward space programs in areas where the search for extraterrestrial natural resources would actually be beneficial to humanity as whole, have seen diminishing funding efforts in countries at the more advanced stages of the space program apparatus, while militarization of space has received more enthusiastic spending by the powers that be. Active efforts have been made in the US by the religious zealots of the financial oligarchy—for example, mainly through bribery [in the form of grants], to lure scientists [*] into making science compatible with religion. Progress in technology has foremost been allowed in areas where it has been resolutely subordinated to the advancement of the profit objectives of capitalism. “Economic viability” has become the capitalist catchphrase for this condition. Technology is usually misconstrued as coming out of capitalism; in actuality, technology occurs side by side the apparatus of capitalism, as processes of modern social development. Therefore, technology and industrialization need not be the monopoly of capitalism. These are certainly compatible with social democracy, and their importance isn’t obviously lost on major protagonists of this movement; recalling Lenin‘s claim for instance, we have:

Modern socialist consciousness can arise only on the basis of profound scientific knowledge. Indeed, modern economic science is as much a condition for socialist production as, say, modern technology, and the proletariat can create neither the one nor the other no matter how much it may desire to do so; both arise out of the modern social process.”

..or this from Trotsky,

“A definite renunciation of the theory of an isolated socialist economy will mean, in the course of a few years, an incomparably more rational use of our resources, a swifter industrialization, and better planned and more powerful growth of our own machine construction. It will mean a swifter increase in the number of employed workers and a real lowering of prices — in a word, a genuine strengthening of the Soviet Union in the capitalist environment."

So, the importance of modern science and industrialization is not in question, but how they are subordinated to serve the needs of society as a whole, as opposed to the profit drive of a few.

Getting back to Stalin’s mindset of “socialism in one nation”, one has to only also look at his actions on the international stage. While Lenin and Trotsky continued to build solid ties with social democracy and workers’ political parties in major capitalist European economies, forming a relationship on the international stage which would not subordinate its cause to bourgeois politics in respective countries of the socialist network under any circumstance, Stalin actually consulted and encouraged workers’ political parties in the aforementioned capitalist economies to subordinate themselves to counterrevolutionary bourgeois parties and rulers, presumably as something that would assure their long term survival. This in itself was undoubtedly a fundamental breach of social democracy revolution. Take for instance, the Chinese Communist Party; in 1927, the then dedicated-workers’ party had been engaged in a bitter struggle against the bourgeois-appeasing [including foreign imperialist parties] Kuomintang elements, led by Chiang Kai-shek, who felt that the Communist elements of the United Front [created to tackle the warlords and unify China in post-Qing Dynasty China] were looking to dominate the said Front, when it was advised by Stalin to subordinate its cause and continue to maintain unity with Chiang and his supporters within the United Front. Chiang and his clique had sent their gangster proxies to provoke workers’ militia in Shanghai into armed combat, as a pretext to implement an emergency state and thereof disarm the latter. The Communist Party heeded these Stalin advises, and called on workers’ militias—then under the Communist guidance—to disarm themselves before Kuomintang troops under Chiang’s instruction entered Shanghai. As it turned out, this disarming was a futile undertaking; Kuomintang troops upon arrival, proceeded to ruthlessly crush the Shanghai workers’ militia anyway. The result would be, Communist party members who survived Kuomintang brute dispersed and sought refuge in the countryside areas; the Chinese Communist party never recovered from that onslaught. Whatever remained of it, eventually turned to counterrevolutionary forces in China, and Mao would eventually head it. And who could forget the betrayal of the Spanish Revolution, as a product of Stalinist Soviet influence?!

Even with respect to Germany, the German Communist Party [KPD] decided not to form a united front against the Nazi party with the Social Democracy Party [SPD], which was then dubbed as “social fascists”, in line with Stalin’s theory of the “Third Period” — part of a three stage temporal-theory of social conditions for workers' movement. During Stalin's reign and under his influence, several communist parties branded other socialist parties as "social fascists", usually those which professed to be "social democracy" advocates, presumably for being subservient to counterrevolutionary bourgeois regimes at a time when decisive workers revolution was to take the stage. Stalinist communist parties even went as far as to misbrand "Trotskyite" socialist organizations, since the latter's politics was deemed to be distinct from the former. Communist parties that succumbed to Stalin’s influence to some degree or another, as the German Communist party would become years after its botched attempt to overthrow the bourgeois government, refused to be allied to entities branded as such. Now of course, the Social Democracy party itself was then no longer what its name implies; it in fact, did give into bourgeois politics, and hence, no longer a social democracy-implementing entity. Still, a united front between the Social Democracy Party and the Communist Party, despite difference in politics and if only temporarily, would have seen much stronger workers’ offensive against the Nazi political surge, and might have well prevented the coming to power of the Nazi party[1 - clickable; learn about the driver behind Stalin‘s Third Period theory]. In all these political maneuvers of Stalin, he was vehemently opposed by the Left Opposition of the Bolshevik party, headed by Trotsky. Yet, critiques of the latter almost never mention these fundamental differences in the political course undertaken by Stalin on the one hand, and Lenin and Trotsky on the other; rather, they have a vested interest in homogenizing their agenda, and obfuscating their stark differences. Thus, the “Third Period” policy of Stalin itself, amongst his other reckless actions — like signing the non-aggression pact with Hitler and easing the Soviet Nation’s defenses [2 (clickable)] — played no small part in coming to bite Stalin in the behind, when the Nazis were handed power. Nazi Germany would come into conflict with Russia, as Trotsky rightfully predicted.

Stalin himself would purge Trotsky and other Left Opposition members, his harshest opponents, from the party. Today, opponents of Lenin & Trotsky attribute this anti-democratic move to earlier Bolshevik decision to *temporarily* ban quasi-factionalism within the party; they argue that Stalin merely brought back that practice and hence, unfairly singled out by Leninists and Trotskyites alike. What they don’t bother to bring to attention, is the fact that the earlier decision to ban factions was to be an extraordinary *temporary* wartime measure at a time when total party unity was vital for its survival, and was actually voted on by the party constituents; it was not to be made into something of a policy—as was the case with Stalin. In fact, Stalin went further as to even execute and imprison Bolshevik Left Opposition members, some of whom sought refuge outside Russia. During this period, some exiles further examined the economic apparatus of Capitalist societies in which they sought refuge, and as mentioned briefly earlier, noted aspects of it which are reasonable enough to continue using under a social democracy apparatus, and aspects of it which undoubtedly warrant abolishing. These do not amount to reforms; in fact, to recap on SEP’s David North notes:

“It is helpful to keep in mind that Trotsky belonged to a generation of Russian Marxists who had utilized the opportunity provided by revolutionary exile to carefully observe and study the workings of the capitalist system in the advanced countries. They were familiar not only with the oft-described "horrors" of capitalism, but also with its positive achievements. The countless hours they had spent studying Das Kapital were enriched by many years of observing capital in action. Upon their return to Russia — and this applies especially to those who were among Trotsky’s closest associates during the years of exile — they brought with them a keen understanding of the complexities of modern economic organization. If political struggles had not invested the issue with such profoundly tragic implications, they would have dismissed as simply laughable the idea that Russia could somehow leap into socialism merely by nationalizing its own paltry means of production. Far from overtaking and surpassing capitalism on the basis of national autarchy, Trotsky argued that a vital precondition for the development of the Soviet economy along socialist lines was its assimilation of the basic techniques of capitalist management, organization, accounting and production.”

That is to say, don’t fix that which is not broken; adopting “basic techniques of capitalist management, organization, accounting and production” itself is not an ineffectual or flawed concept; rather, these "basic techniques" comprise various social processes that the capitalist apparatus itself inherited and perfected, and whose effectiveness lies with how they are applied: that is, whether they are privatized to benefit the wealthy few, or 'nationalized' to benefit the bulk of society, the majority of which happens to be the modern working class.

Trotsky and the Left Opposition of the Bolshevik party vehemently voiced criticism against Stalin’s turning the party into a bureaucratic one:

"It is in contradictions and differences of opinion that the working out of the party’s public opinion inevitably takes place. To localize this process only within the apparatus, which is then charged to furnish the party with the fruits of its labors in the forms of slogans, orders, etc., is to sterilize the party ideologically and politically … the leading party bodies must heed the voices of the broad party masses and must not consider every criticism a manifestation of factionalism and thereby cause conscientious and disciplined party members to withdraw into closed circles and fall into factionalism" [1] - Ibid., pp. 79-80

Essentially, this is to say that removal of inner-party democracy was actually a recipe for breeding strong factionalism within the party. Trotsky goes on further:

"It frequently happens that the party is able to resolve one and the same problem by different means, and differences arise as to which of these means is the better, the more expeditious, the more economical. These differences may, depending on the question, embrace considerable sections of the party, but that does not necessarily mean that you have there two class tendencies…

There is no doubt that we shall have not one but dozens of disagreements in the future, for our path is difficult and the political tasks as well as the economic questions of socialist organization will unfailingly engender differences of opinion and temporary groupings of opinion. The political verification of all the nuances of opinion by Marxist analysis will always be one of the most efficacious preventive measures for our party. But it is this concrete Marxist verification that must be resorted to, and not the stereotyped phrases which are the defense mechanism of bureaucratism." [2]

Now of course, differences of opinions doesn’t mean that counterrevolutionary anti-Marxist elements should be allowed to blossom within a Marxist political party; that would defeat the whole purpose of the party, which is that, it was created precisely to follow through with Marxist philosophical objectives of social democracy. As long as party members were unequivocally dedicated to Marxist social democracy, i.e. the reason the party was created, inner-party democracy embracing its broad members and differences of opinion thereof, towards a singular goal was to be promoted as the strength of the party; this is what Trotsky was essentially conveying in the pieces above. He feels that taking that democratic element away, actually encourages rather than inhibit the development of “closed circles and factionalism” within the party, which undermines the party. Opponents of Trotsky and Lenin overlook these fundamental differences for reasons already mentioned. Stalin’s nationalistic [in contrast to his predecessors’ internationalized] approach of ‘socialism in one country’— which itself was a reaction to the defeats of workers’ revolution in Europe — was to spread onto other formerly resolutely-dedicated genuine workers’ political parties and communist parties alike oversees [many of which came together as members of the Comintern] through Soviet influence under Stalin, upon defeats of workers’ revolutions. David North put it best:

Trotsky always stressed that the political reaction within the USSR against the program and traditions of October was greatly strengthened by the *defeats* suffered by the *international* working class. The initial setback suffered by the Left Opposition in the late autumn of 1923 was definitely bound up with the defeat of the German Revolution, which dimmed hopes that European workers would in the near future come to the aid of the USSR. This was the climate that created a *broader audience* for the nationalist perspective of socialism in one country. The political disorientation produced by the nationalist line of the Soviet leaders inside the Communist International led, in turn, to *more defeats* for the working class outside the USSR.

Stalinist brand of ‘socialism in one country’ has undoubtedly derailed from the social democracy objective of eventually abolishing statehood, of which the Comintern was setup as the starting point. It was thus a fundamental breach of Marxist social democracy, which opponents of Lenin and Trotsky cease to acknowledge. As a result, socialism has been discredited in the eyes of sections of modern working classes in major capitalist economies and even minor ones, who strive for change but are not effectively organized, nor able to come up with a more viable solution than Marxist schematic for social democracy, other than relying on the confines of “unionism” and pressing for mere social reforms or “concessions“ without actually shaking up the overall apparatus of the repressive bourgeois socio-economic order in which they make their living. Now, comes the question: what has Stalin’s influence done in Africa?

Well, for one, in light of the Cold War, bourgeois African figures of independence struggles against colonialism saw the Soviet Union as a counterweight to the major capitalist colonial powers of the so-called “West”. So, those who came into conflict or fell out of favor with the capitalist colonial economies, found a willing ally in the Soviet Union. So, Africa as elsewhere, became battlegrounds for Western/US-Soviet rivalry. During the Cold War, certain bourgeois African leaders like Gaddafi were able to lean on the Soviets to thumb their noses at the capitalist colonial economies of the “West”, even as the latter actively sought to eliminate them. In the Congo, Patrice Lumumba’s fatal mistake was to turn to the Soviets for help. The colonial capitalist powers in the Congo at the time found an African ally in Mobutu, whose betrayal of Lumumba paved way for the latter’s demise. In Southern Africa, we had the "Western"/Israeli-backed savage apartheid regime fight local resistance by the ANC which had members influenced by the Soviets, while at the same time, fighting Soviet-backed groups in Angola. In the African Horn, similar battles were being waged; with the Ethiopians coming under Soviet influence under the Mengistu regime and the Somalis coming under US/"Western" sphere, the Ethio-Somali conflict had the double feature of being a proxy war between the “Western” interests and Soviet interests. Even today, the Ethio-Somali war is a proxy war, but in a reversal of role—with Ethiopia now backed by the US, while Somali warlords being backed by foreign Islamic fundamentalist groups and Eritrea. These are mere examples, but it goes to show that while Soviet objectives were opportunistic and did not really coincide with the interests of the African masses, capitalist global influence was and still hasn’t worked for Africans. In fact, capitalist colonial powers are to blame for much of the socio-economic chaos that Africans had seen from the 19th century onwards. Today, we have people in the capitalist colonial economies placing blame solely and squarely at the post-independence African bourgeois regimes. One such example that comes to mind, is Carol Lancaster, former deputy administrator of the US Agency for International Development and a former deputy assistant secretary in the State Department's Bureau of African Affairs. She says:

“By the mid 1990s—nearly half a century since the beginning of African independence—theories attributing African development failures to colonialism retained little credibility among scholars.” [3]

It wouldn’t be fair, if I didn’t mention’s Ann Talbot credit for her superb diagnosis of this mindset:

“Lancaster is expressing what has become the consensus view not so much of academics, but of Western governments, the IMF and the World Bank, which are attempting to impose free market economic policies in Africa. Like them she insists that African governments must become “transparent” and “accountable”. She does not mean that their activities must be open to the scrutiny of the mass of their populations or democratically accountable to them, but that they should be answerable to international institutions that represent the interests of global finance capital and responsive to their demands for profit.

To blame “African socialism” for Africa's failure to develop is a convenient fiction. Any serious examination of the continent's history shows that the reasons for Africa's backwardness lie in the centuries of foreign domination it suffered, dating back to the time of the **slave trade**. This **helped to fuel the development of capitalism in Europe, but deprived Africa of millions of able-bodied people** and fomented predatory wars that disrupted its economy.

Over half a century of direct colonial rule followed. While most of the African colonies gained formal independence in the 1960s, they could not break free from the political domination of the former colonial powers, nor from the economic exploitation of the giant corporations that controlled the trade in African commodities and control finance.

This system of exploitation has continued to the present day. Indebted African countries are net exporters of capital although they are among the poorest in the world. Debt relief has had very little effect, despite the fanfare with which it was proclaimed.

To understand why the imperialist powers were able to continue to exploit Africa, it is necessary to look more closely at the relationship between the West and leaders like Nyerere and Nkrumah. The regimes Lancaster blames for all Africa's problems came to power with Western backing. Western governments also encouraged them to provide limited welfare measures, particularly health care and education. The World Bank underwrote their schemes for industrialisation and agricultural development. The colonial authorities had, in many cases, drawn up plans for these projects before independence was granted. Tanzania under Nyerere became one of the largest recipients of World Bank loans. Without this support the Pan-Africanist regimes could not have survived.”

Then there was the issue of the Cold War, which I had just briefly mentioned above; Ann Talbot adds:

“Western governments and the international institutions they financed were prepared to support the so-called African socialist leaders because they feared that social unrest could lead to popular uprisings, and that the Soviet Union would take advantage of this to gain control of the continent's strategic resources. This had been the guiding principle of British policy in Africa since the end of the World War II, when Labour Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin warned Prime Minister Clement Atlee, “sooner or later the Russians will make a major drive against our positions in Africa.””[4]

Furthermore, Stalin‘s role…

“In the colonial and semi-colonial countries, the Stalinists rejected a perspective based on the independent political mobilisation of the working class and revived the two-stage theory of revolution, according to which the working class could only struggle for socialism after the bourgeois democratic revolution had been achieved. Over time, the bureaucracy's growing scepticism in the possibility of socialist revolution was to be transformed into a conscious opposition to what they correctly viewed as a threat to their own privileged existence in the Soviet Union.

It was Stalinism's political disarming of the workers' movement, combined with its opportunist shifts in policy before the Second World War, that did the most to encourage the growth of Pan-Africanism. In an attempt to make an alliance with the fascist powers, Stalin had sold oil to Mussolini when he invaded Ethiopia and had signed a pact with Hitler. When Stalin later tried to make an alliance with Britain against Hitler, he ordered Communist Party members to drop their support for anti-colonial movements. This discredited socialism in the eyes of broad masses, having its greatest impact in India where the Communist Party supported the war effort while the Indian Congress Movement maintained its opposition to British rule.

The betrayal of the Indian anti-colonial struggle had an indirect effect on the Pan-African movement, then still largely an American based organisation. George Padmore, a leading West Indian Communist Party member, quit and then joined the Pan-African movement. He successfully turned it into an African-based movement by presenting it as the only consistent opponent of imperialism.

In Africa, the Stalinists repeatedly showed their willingness to coexist with capitalism. One of the most outstanding examples of their counterrevolutionary role was in Sudan, which had the largest Communist Party, with 10,000 members, in Africa outside of South Africa. It helped the nationalist Numeiry to power in 1969. The Soviet Union made no protest the following year, when, having used them to defeat his Islamist opponents, Numeiry expelled all the Communist Party ministers from his government and imprisoned and executed Communist Party members.” - Ann Talbot

Continued colonial presence and the growing exploitation that accompanied it, ignited mass unrest across the African continent, which prompted local colonial regimes to adopt the policy of appeasing those power-aspiring bourgeois “activists” who sought to gain political leverage by joining the anti-colonial mass movements and appointing themselves as front line spokesmen of those movements, but were willing to bargain with colonial administrations. This move by local colonial regimes was obviously meant to placate mass unrest, and avert the eruption of overwhelming mass social revolutions in their colonial “empires”. In a brief synopsis on African class struggles, Talbot points out:

“Faced with revolutionary movements in Italy, Greece and Yugoslavia, and insurrection in Malaya and Indo-China, the British and French governments feared that the poverty to which they had condemned millions of Africans would prove to be even more fertile ground for revolutionary ideas. This was borne out when their attempts to increase the level of exploitation in Africa evoked widespread opposition amongst a population radicalised by their experiences of the war.

Rural layers had been swiftly proletarianised during the Second World War. Many were recruited to the armed forces, or conscripted to labour on sisal and rubber plantations…Manufacturing output [in South Africa] increased by 116 percent and the industrial labour force grew by 53 percent, the majority made up of black workers.

The African working class emerged from the war numerically stronger and increasingly militant. There were major strikes by tens of thousands of workers in Nigeria, French West Africa, Guinea, Zambia and South Africa in the next 2-3 years. Rural areas were not exempt from these movements. Post-war evictions in Zimbabwe to make room for more white settlers led major strikes in 1945 and 1948. European plantation owners' demands for more forced labour in the Ivory Coast led to mass protests. In Kenya, the Mau Mau movement attacked both native chiefs and the white settlers who had dispossessed peasant farmers.

Thousands of ex-servicemen returned to Africa with new ideas and expectations. It was an ex-servicemen's demonstration in 1948 that precipitated moves to independence in Ghana….A committee of 40 African notables was appointed [by the British colonial admin.] to look into the causes of the disturbances, and recommended that African ministers should be selected from a legislative assembly partly elected by adult male suffrage. Although the real power remained with the governor, this was an unprecedented move in an African colony.

The British had cultivated a layer of government appointed chiefs and their educated supporters in Ghana. It was to this wealthy layer that the Colonial Office envisaged gradually handing power over local matters, but the continued development of popular opposition both to British rule and to this entrenched privileged layer forced a change of plan. In 1951, the Convention Peoples Party under the leadership of Kwame Nkrumah put itself at the head of popular protests and won a majority of the seats in the Legislative Assembly. Governor Sir Charles Arden-Clarke summoned Nkrumah from prison and invited him to be Leader of Government Business.

Nkrumah was the first of the Pan-African leaders to come to power. His *journey from prison cell to government was a pattern that was to be followed in an increasing number of colonies*, as the British sought to maintain their power in Africa through a system of indirect rule.

Their suspicion of the Pan-Africanists, whose socialist rhetoric had led the British government to fear that they would ally themselves with the Soviet Union, diminished as a result of Nkrumah's *cooperative attitude*.

Discussions between Britain and the US

Recently released documents from the time show how Britain and the United States discussed the situation in Africa in the context of the Cold War and concluded that independence under Pan-African leadership was the only way to protect their interests. The British Foreign Office feared that too rapid a move to independence might “expose volatile and unsophisticated peoples to the insidious dangers of Communist penetration”. Alternatively they recognised that intransigence would run the risk of “provoking the African turn more readily towards the Soviet Union”…”

Source: Link; makes very interesting reading!

That last few paragraphs are especially worth noting. Thus, far from shaking up the bourgeois socio-economic framework of their local colonial capitalist regimes, bourgeois “Pan-African“-advocating figures who subordinated genuine popular anti-colonial resistance movements to bourgeois cause by taking up leading roles of those movements, actually maintained that framework and sought to benefit from it after achieving political power or leverage.

To be continued...see: Part 1, and Part 4

[1] - Ibid., pp. 79-80
[2] - Ibid., pp. 84-85
[3] - Lancaster p. 21; Aid to Africa: So Much to Do, So Little Done
[4] - quoted in John D. Hargreaves, Decolonization in Africa, Longman, 1996, p. 147
* - quotes of Ann Talbot, and/or

Social Democracy for Africa? Part 2

Carried from Social Democracy for Africa?

Continuing with the question of the introduction of systematic political consciousness of the working proletariat, as opposed to merely waiting for some spontaneous coherent conscious across the proletariat, of a comprehensive understanding of the workings of the complex socio-economic order they are a part of, Lenin says:

“We have said that there could not have been Social Democratic consciousness among the workers. It would have to be brought to them from without. The history of all countries shows that the working class, exclusively by its own effort, is able to develop only trade union consciousness, i.e., the conviction that it is necessary to combine in unions, fight the employers, and strive to compel the government to pass necessary labor legislation, etc. The theory of socialism, however, grew out of the philosophic, historical, and economic theories elaborated by educated representatives of the propertied classes, by intellectuals. By their social status, the founders of modern socialism, Marx and Engels, themselves belonged to the bourgeois intelligentsia. In the same way, in Russia, the theoretical doctrine of Social Democracy arose altogether independently of the spontaneous growth of the working class movement; it arose as a natural and inevitable outcome of the development of thought among the revolutionary socialist intelligentsia.” [1]

“In all social formations of any complexity—and in the capitalist social formation in particular—people in their intercourse are not conscious of what kind of social relations are being formed, in accordance with what laws they develop, etc. For instance, a peasant when he sells his grain enters into ‘intercourse’ with the world producers of grain in the world market, but he is not conscious of it; nor is he conscious of what kind of social relations are formed on the basis of exchange. Social consciousness reflects social being—that is Marx’s teaching. A of the reflected, but reflection may be an approximately true copyto speak of identity is absurd…" [2]

"…Every individual producer in the world economic system realizes that he is introducing this or that change into the technique of production; every owner realizes that he exchanges certain products for others; but these producers and these owners do not realize that in doing so they are thereby changing social being. The sum-total of these changes in all their ramifications in the capitalist world economy could not be grasped even by seventy Marxes."[3]

“The most important thing is that the objective logic of these changes and of their historical development has in its chief and basic features been disclosed—objective, not in the sense that a society of conscious beings, of people, could exist and develop independently of the existence of conscious beings (and it is only such trifles that Bogdanov stresses by his ‘theory’), but in the sense that social being is independent of the social consciousness of people. The fact that you live and conduct your business, beget children, produce products and exchange them, gives rise to an objectively necessary chain of development, which is independent of your social consciousness, and is never grasped by the latter completely.

The highest task of humanity is to comprehend this objective logic of economic evolution (the evolution of social life) in its general and fundamental features, so that it may be possible to adapt to it one’s social consciousness and the consciousness of the advanced classes of all capitalist countries in as definite, clear and critical fashion as possible.”[4]

On this point, David North of the SEP (Socialist Equality Party) weighs in:

“When people go to work, to what extent are they aware of the vast network of global economic interconnections of which their own job is a minute element? One can reasonably assume that even the most intelligent worker would have only the vaguest sense of the relationship of his job, or his company, to the immensely complex processes of modern transnational production and exchange of goods and services. Nor is the individual worker in a position to penetrate the mysteries of international capitalist finance, the role of global hedge funds, and the secret and often impenetrable ways (even to experts in the field) that tens of billions of dollars in financial assets are moved across international borders every day. The realities of modern capitalist production, trade and finance are so complex that corporate and political leaders are dependent upon the analyses and advice of major academic institutions, which, more often than not, are divided among themselves as to the meaning of data at their disposal…

…the concept of exploitation is not one that is easily understood, let alone derived directly from the instinctive sense that one is not being paid enough. The worker who fills out an application form upon applying for a job does not perceive that she is offering to sell her labor power, or that the unique quality of that labor power is its capacity to produce a sum of value greater than the price (the wage) at which it has been purchased; and that profit is derived from this differential between the cost of labor power and the value that it creates.

Nor is a worker aware that when he purchases a commodity for a definite sum of money, the essence of that exchange is a relation not between things (a coat or some other commodity for a definite amount of money) but between people. Indeed, he does not understand the nature of money, how it emerged historically as the expression of the value form, and how it serves to mask, in a society in which the production and exchange of commodities have been universalized, the underlying social relations of capitalist society.

What I have just been speaking about might serve as a general introduction to what might be considered the theoretical-epistemological foundation of Marx’s most important work, Capital.

In the concluding section of the critical chapter one of volume one, Marx introduces his theory of commodity fetishism, which explains the objective source of the mystification of social relations within capitalist society—that is, the reason why in this particular economic system social relations between people necessarily appear as relations between things. It is not, and cannot be apparent to workers, on the basis of sense perception and immediate experience, that any given commodity’s value is the crystallized expression of the sum of human labor expended in its production. The discovery of the objective essence of the value form represented a historical milestone in scientific thought. Without this discovery, neither the objective socio-economic foundations of the class struggle nor their revolutionary implications could have been understood.” — The origins of Bolshevism and What Is To Be Done?

In other words, the schematic for social democracy revolution is based on scientific understanding of social evolution, not as single events, but a thread of complex processes within complex socio-economic frameworks over a protracted time span, taken into consideration with the advancements in science and technology along the way, in tandem with corresponding anticipation of the future course of such evolution based on what is now known. This takes deep seated understanding of not only the present, but also the past, and being able to disentangle the underlying forces within the socio-environmental backdrop against which, a series of events occurred along the way. In a few words, for reasons elaborated in the extensive quoting above, political consciousness is not something that necessarily comes to the average person spontaneously, let alone expecting spontaneous coherently organized political consciousness across the proletariat. Political consciousness has to be introduced to the working proletariat, side by side with their economic struggles, speaking of which…

Courtesy David North , Lenin continues, citing Karl Kautsky along the way:

"Modern socialist consciousness can arise only on the basis of profound scientific knowledge. Indeed, modern economic science is as much a condition for socialist production as, say, modern technology, and the proletariat can create neither the one nor the other, no matter how much it may desire to do so; both arise out of the modern social process. The vehicle of science is not the proletariat, but the bourgeois intelligentsia: it was in the minds of individual members of this stratum that modern socialism originated, and it was they who communicated it to the more intellectually developed proletarians who, in their turn, introduce it into the proletarian class struggle where conditions allow that to be done. Thus, socialist consciousness is something introduced into the proletarian class struggle and not something that arose within it spontaneously. Accordingly, the old Hainfeld program quite rightly stated that the task of Social-Democracy is to imbue the proletariat with the consciousness of its position and the consciousness of its task. There would be no need for this if consciousness arose of itself from the class struggle.”[5]

“Since there can be no talk of an independent ideology formulated by the working masses themselves in the process of their movement, the only choice is—either bourgeois or socialist ideology. There is no middle course (for mankind has not created a ‘third’ ideology, and, moreover, in a society torn by class antagonisms there can never be a non-class or above-class ideology). Hence, to belittle the socialist ideology in any way, to turn aside from it in the slightest degree means to strengthen bourgeois ideology. There is much talk of spontaneity. But the spontaneous development of the working class movement leads to its subordination to bourgeois ideology, to its development along the lines of the Credo program; for the spontaneous working class movement is trade unionism, is Nur-Gewerkschaftlerei, and trade unionism means the ideological enslavement of the workers by the bourgeoisie. Hence, our task, the task of Social-Democracy, is to combat spontaneity, to divert the working class from this spontaneous, trade unionist striving to come under the wing of the bourgeoisie, and to bring it under the wing of revolutionary Social-Democracy.”[6]

The new economic policy did improve the socio-economic situation, at least up until about the time Stalin assumed some degree of leadership within the Bolshevik party, when in 1928 the Five Year Plan was introduced. Now of course “improved” is a relative word, which doesn’t imply that all was okay all the time within the time span from when the NEP was voted on in 1921 to be implemented to the introduction of the Five Year Plan in 1928. The measures taken under the NEP to placate peasantry, and henceforth imbue them to increase their produce, led to the agricultural sector growing relatively faster than the industrial sector. This had the effect of putting manufacturers in a position where they felt the need to sell goods at fairly high prices to keep their operations economically viable, while prices of agricultural produce fell; a situation that also came to be known as the “Scissor crisis“. Extensive industrialization program was still underway, but it would have been dependent on foreign exchange needed to build up more large-scale industry; agricultural surplus was to be part of this foreign exchange earner apparatus. As a consequence, there were brief periods in between, when the peasantry engaged in the hoarding of their produce, as a response to inflation, wherein prices of manufactured goods rose and put some strains on the spending power of the peasants in purchasing those goods. Farmers who initially sold their surplus at reasonably low prices in the market, now felt the need to find ways to sell their produce at higher prices, as a way to enhance their spending power for manufactured goods. Thus this led to hoarding on the one hand, or selling their produce to retailers [the middle men here] at high enough [to them farmers] prices, who in turn, not to be left shortchanged, sold the produce at high prices. This of course, was an undesirable economic situation, and so, government had to step in and set prices for produce and manufactured goods at more affordable levels for consumers, as well as regulate the internal practices of manufacturers. Heavier regulation of peasants would come under the Five Year Plans under Stalin’s leadership.

Under the Five Year Plan implemented by Stalin and Krzhyzhanovsky, the campaign of collectivization sought to churn out maximum surplus from the farming sector within a short period of time, so as to facilitate rapid industrialization. Here, it is worth noting the mindset that shaped Stalin’s recklessness in implementing this program of collectivization, and how this derailed from the Bolshevik revolutionary agenda; hence, it provides an opportunity to revisit the impact of factionalism within the party on the course it took over the years. The party factionalism is something that has often been downplayed and overlooked by opponents of Lenin and Trotsky, as means to discredit the actual revolutionary objectives of the Marxist leaders at the time of the October Revolution and their rise to power thereof. The idea behind this homogenization of the Bolshevik leadership, is to of course paint it as one that came to power from the onset, with a socio-economic schematic which would steadfastly be carried out by Stalin. Since Stalin’s program of socialism wasn’t exactly what most would recognize as revolutionary, this painting of Bolshevik leadership respectively under Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin with a ‘single brush’ would in essence uncritically discredit the whole Bolshevik apparatus, from the October Revolution through to Stalin’s entire reign. However, reality tells us that Stalin’s brand of communism was shaped by his attitude of going ahead with the implementation of “Socialism in one nation”, which was just moments ago briefly discussed as something that strongly went against the Bolshevik objective under Lenin’s and Trotsky’s leadership. This in itself was a fundamental distinction in objective that any scientific-minded historian would avoid dismissing.

Apparently, Stalin was of the mindset that “socialism in one nation” was viable, while Lenin and Trotsky were not convinced of such a thing. Conversely, the unsuccessful undertaking of the German revolution and those elsewhere in Europe by proletariats who had been devastated and weakened by war, convinced Stalin that the international program of social democracy was a “utopian” undertaking that could not be realized. Whereas Lenin and Trotsky were steadfast in building a social democracy program over political boundaries of Europe, on the understanding that the proletariat in major capitalist European nations will regain their strength and inevitably get back on the path of workers’ revolutionary struggle. This mindset affected Stalin’s domestic and international policies. In setting up an example of how those differences in mindset had led to different approaches to the question of the nation‘s industrialization program, let’s revisit the collectivization of farms issue; remember, Trotsky said:

“We have always considered collectivization dependent upon industrialization. We saw the socialist reconstruction of peasant economy only as a prospect of many years. We never closed our eyes to the inevitability of internal conflicts during the socialist reconstruction of a single nation. To remove contradictions in rural life is possible only by removing contradictions between the city and countryside. This can be realized only through the world revolution. We never demanded, therefore, the liquidation of classes within the scope of the five-year plan of Stalin and Krzhyzhanovsky … The question of the tempo of industrialization is not a matter of bureaucratic fancy, but of the life and culture of the masses.”

Contrast this to the frantic collectivization campaign of Stalin, to attain industrialization in the shortest time, and in the process devastating the peasantry class. That right there, in the citation, is what the NEP was about; making some concessions against the socialist program, without the destruction of either the peasantry or the urban working class - that is, to use Trotsky’s words, “the liquidation of classes within the scope of the five year plan”. To Trotsky, in contrast to Stalin, the tempo of industrialization had to take into consideration, the pre-existing state and capacity of the masses, while still building the platform for an international socialist program. In doing so, he is not oblivious to the internal contradictions that would arise during reconstruction process in his own country, and realizes that it would have to be done within the framework of a global trade network dominated by major and minor capitalist economies, during a transitory period whose span is undetermined, on the understanding that there is no telling when the proletariat in major capitalist economies of Europe would undertake a successful workers’ revolution; hence the concession-giving NEP. To reiterate his words:

“Resting our hope on an isolated development of socialism and upon a rate of economic development independent of world economy distorts the whole outlook. It puts our planning leadership off the track, and offers no guiding threads for a correct regulation of our relations with world economy. We have no way of deciding what to manufacture ourselves and what to bring in from outside. A definite renunciation of the theory of an isolated socialist economy will mean, in the course of a few years, an incomparably more rational use of our resources, a swifter industrialization, and better planned and more powerful growth of our own machine construction. It will mean a swifter increase in the number of employed workers and a real lowering of prices — in a word, a genuine strengthening of the Soviet Union in the capitalist environment."

David North of SEP, again neatly summarizes this point:

“It may seem paradoxical that Trotsky, the great protagonist of world revolution, placed greater emphasis than any other Soviet leader of his time on the overriding importance of close economic links between the USSR and the world capitalist market. Soviet economic development, he insisted, required both access to the resources of the world market and the intelligent utilization of the international division of labor. The development of economic planning required at minimum a knowledge of competitive advantage and efficiencies at the international level. It served no rational economic purpose for the USSR to make a virtue of frittering away its own limited resources in a vain effort to duplicate on Soviet soil what it could obtain at far less cost on the world capitalist market

It is helpful to keep in mind that Trotsky belonged to a generation of Russian Marxists who had utilized the opportunity provided by revolutionary exile to carefully observe and study the workings of the capitalist system in the advanced countries. They were familiar not only with the oft-described "horrors" of capitalism, but also with its positive achievements. The countless hours they had spent studying Das Kapital were enriched by many years of observing capital in action. Upon their return to Russia — and this applies especially to those who were among Trotsky’s closest associates during the years of exile — they brought with them a keen understanding of the complexities of modern economic organization. If political struggles had not invested the issue with such profoundly tragic implications, they would have dismissed as simply laughable the idea that Russia could somehow leap into socialism merely by nationalizing its own paltry means of production. Far from overtaking and surpassing capitalism on the basis of national autarchy, Trotsky argued that a vital precondition for the development of the Soviet economy along socialist lines was its assimilation of the basic techniques of capitalist management, organization, accounting and production.”

To be continued...see: Part 3, and Part 4

[1] - Ibid, pp. 375-76
[2] - Collected Works, Volume 14 (Progress Publishers, 1977), p. 323
[3] - Ibid, p. 325
[4] - Ibid, p. 325
[5] - Ibid, p. 383-84
[6] - Ibid, p. 384