trotskyism reminds me of a concept in the Gender Knot by Allan Johnson, where he talks about how patriarchy is so effective because it provides paths of least resistance that are incredibly bad for society. this is really prevalent in trotskyism today, because most modern day trotskyists agree with the vast majority of western propaganda claims against the USSR. instead of critically looking at the USSR’s successes and failures and learning from them, the ISO and SWP writes it off as “state capitalist” and applauded the collapse of socialism in eastern europe and russia because they thought Real Socialism would flourish. instead of a resurgence of socialism, US and neoliberal hegemony was the result, with disastrous results for the millions who have been killed as a result of unbridled US imperial ambitions.
this tendency for taking the path of least resistance also leads them to support neoliberal movements in third world countries, like the green movement in Iran, the KLA terrorists in Yugoslavia, and the NATO rebels in Libya. to this day, the ISO and SWP consider these groups to be progressive forces. (Good articles to read: Iran 1 2 3 Yugoslavia 1 Libya 1 2)
As Cailean Bochanan put it in an excellent article showing how the British left spread misinformation on Libya, “NATO must be pleased with opponents like these.”
Lulz, ISO and SWP as good examples of Trotskyism. You’re talking about some of the most confused, sectarian, cult-of-personality-ridden Trotskyist groups. The SWP repeatedly tells their members to quit their jobs and go work in factories! I met someone who actually dropped out of grad school for them!
If you want to see true Trotskyist analysis look at the Socialist Alternative and the CWI (US and international arm of the same organization). When I first had a conversation with a guy from SA about the USSR we spent two hours discussing the successes and failures. The CWI does not consider the USSR as state capitalism, since there were no markets that the state competed in and there was no profit except in international trade for supplies like oil. And even then, the trade was mostly between the USSR and other Communist countries. The Soviet Union was a degenerate workers’ state bogged down by unaccountable bureaucracy however it was not state capitalist.
I’m not sure about those other movements, but CWI spends a long time discussing different international movements in their book Marxism in Today’s World. Visit socialistworld.net for their version of the news. And don’t knock out an entire tendency because some of its groups are fucked up.
While the CWI’s line on Libya is much better than the ISO/SWP’s, it still perpetuated nearly all of the imperialist myths about Yugoslavia and Iran. The CWI wholeheartedly supports the neoliberal green movement. It results in funny articles like this, which makes claims that the demonstrations are anti-capitalist, then admits a couple paragraphs later that a socialist consciousness isn’t very prevalent. Hell, Time’s class analysis of the green movement was far better than the CWI’s. The CWI cherrypicked facts to fit their analysis, they completely ignored that most of the Iranian working class recognized that the green movement was one that was run by the middle class and in the interests of the middle class.
The CWI cannot keep their analysis of Iran straight for more than a paragraph.
The idea that the Soviet bureaucracy was unaccountable just doesn’t match up with reality. in the interest of length, i’m just going to give one example from Is The Red Flag Flying by Albert Szymanski:
Letters to editors of the Soviet press, which very often amount to guest editorials or articles, play a very significant role. This institution provides a major forum for the producing class to present its opinions and participate directly in the sharp confrontation of conflicting ideas. Many discussions are thus initiated from below. Letters to government agencies, Party organs, etc. also play a very important role in initiating public discussion and influencing the decision making process. It appears that group opinion, as expressed in the letters and the media, exerts a significant influence on the course of events.
All the mass media have letter departments which keep letters received on file and forward them to the appropriate government agency. By law any agency against whom a complaint or suggestion is directed must respond within 15 days and the sender must be notified of the results. The state takes very seriously the channelling of complaints and grievances to collection points where they can be processed. The press thus serves the function of ombudsman for the masses. In 1970 Pravda handled about 360,000 letters a year and Izvestia 500,000. Obviously the press cannot publish all the letters it receives, but all must be processed and referred to the agencies against which a complaint is directed.
The press itself does more than provide a forum for public debate and opinion formation. it also actively performs the role of social critic (although not of the basic premises of Soviet society listed above), The newspapers actively search out corruption, managerial incompetence, inept government and flaws in social organization. They investigate allegations of injustice, ineffeciency, bungled planning and highhanded bureaucracy. Pravda and other major papers, in particular, systematically engage in public exposures. The press maintains public surveillance over official programmes, checks the performance of social institutions and promotes create solutions to complex problems of Soviet society. It encourages citizens to take an active part in criticizing everyone who may be abusing the public trust, except the persons of the top leaders. Complaints, many of them originating from readers, have produced criminal prosecutions and disciplinary action against Communist Party members.
This is just one example of the many ways that the Soviet bureaucracy was held accountable.
the ISO supported Polish Solidarity on the grounds that it was an internal, working class challenge to the state, seeking progressive labor reforms.
secondly, ISO (dunno about SWP) no longer use the “state capitalist” formulation as our official stance on Russia, Cuba, or North Korea. I think it rings true for China these days, though.
thirdly, what’s so bad about criticizing both qaddafi and the Empire?
The ISO defends the collapse of actually existing socialism as a progressive historical event:
The 1989 revolutions thus marked a turning point in history. They didn’t produce socialism–in every case, the new order was a step sideways to a different form of capitalism. But the immense struggle from below that finally swept away the dictatorships of Eastern Europe remains an inspiration today.
Millions of people died from privatization, and working class people have far less control over their lives and over the state as a result. By any objective measure, this was a massive regression in worker power, not a progressive event. Internationally, the Soviet Union was the one bulwark to American imperialism.
ISO still regularly refer to actually existing socialism as state capitalism, here’s an example from 2008. A search for “state capitalism” on their website shows tons of examples of them using it to refer to actually existing socialism.
The ISO went beyond criticizing Gaddafi and actively supported the neoliberal-monarchist-bin ladenite rebel coalition. They sponsored protests all across the US in favor of the NATO rebels. Every single imperialist war has a phase where the imperialist media spreads disinformation in order to justify war, and the ISO assisted this imperialist propaganda effort on the streets and in the newspapers. As I quoted earlier, NATO must be pleased with enemies like these.