Chase/Trotsky: The Ultimate Sequel – Part III (D)

Dear Readers:

Welcome back, and it’s time for housekeeping chores, as always. Here is the link to Part A of this series. If you are reading ALL 3 series from the beginning, then link to Part A, and that will contain a link to all the previous entries for Part I and Part II, which were penned some months back. Then read:

Part III-A itself, III-B, Part III-C,

and then this one, which is III-D.   There shall be one more after this one, and then we’re done.  Got it?

We now continue with Part III of Professor Chase monograph “Trotsky In Mexico”.  Which is a summary and medley of the Prof’s previous arias.  Chase, in the first few paragraphs dismisses the notion that Trotsky’s eagerness for the U.S. consul to read his unpublished works on Comintern agents, was keyed on the recent home invasion or investigation of the murder of Robert Sheldon Harte.

And this is where the Prof recaps the major Leitmotif of his opera, which I henceforth dub the  “Chase Publish Or Perish” Leitmotif.

Translating Paragraph #5 in full:

“Sorry, bud, no visa for you!”

From the beginning of 1937 through the beginning of 1939, Trotsky and his supporters worked at full throttle to obtain an entry visa for him to the U.S.  These attempts were undertaken under false pretexes, with Trotsky’s knowledge.  The attempts of [Benjamin] Stolberg and [Suzanne] La Follette in 1937 to facilitate an entry (visa for Trotsky) were most certainly motivated in reality by their wish to have Trotsky appear before the Dewey Commission in New York; or, at the very least, create a precedent for a possible future residency permit.  In March of 1939 Trotsky wrote to a fellow Party member:  “Your suggestion to send an American doctor here [to Mexico] is not pertinent.  There is nothing new to report [in my health], with the exception of some chronic dislocations [?].  The general term for my condition is called the Sixth Decade, and I am not convinced that [even] in New York you can find a specialist for this disease.”  When his [requests for a visa on medical grounds] turned out to be unconvincing [to the American government], Trotsky switched tactics and, together with [Pelham] Glassford and the ACLU, returned to the same motivation he had used in 1933:  to do historical research.

Publish Or Perish

And this is, in fact the entire theme of the Professor’s monograph.  That Trotsky wanted into America, by hook or by crook.  He wanted to move to America with his family, and he didn’t care what he had to do to obtain an entry visa.  Even if it meant lying to the American government, betraying the cause he had lived and worked for all his life, and even throwing his American comrades under the bus!

But now we get to the two juicier arias, the ones that excited the remaining Stalinist sects worldwide:  the Dies Committee testimony and the McGregor Memorandum.  Two links in the same “chain of betrayal”, as the Stalinists would say.  I mentioned before that the worldwide Stalinist factions, scholars like Grover Furr, various other not-so-scholarly  Furrites, “Furries” and proto-violent grouplets like “The Red Youth” have insisted, all along, that every allegation Stalin made against Trotsky (as well as all the other Old Bolsheviks), was true.  Discarding Trotsky’s own (and more sensible) theory that the Moscow Trials of 1936-37 were simply Stalin’s little way of getting Trotsky extradited back to the USSR — that’s just how much he missed his old friend — they insist that all the charges were true.  That Trotsky, Zinoviev, Kamenev, Bukharin, and all the others had collaborated with the Nazis, with the Japanese, with all of the Soviet Union’s enemies, in their attempt to overthrow Stalin’s government and replace it with their own.  And then, in his waning years, Trotsky and his home-boy Diego Rivera decided to collaborate with still another imperialist government, the United States, and with the same motive:  to destroy Stalin and the entire workers movement; and to restore capitalism to the USSR.

Political Revolution vs Counter-Revolution?

The one kernel of truth in this ludicrous combination is that Trotsky did, indeed (after he gave up on the possibility of peaceful change), call for the violent overthrow of the Stalin faction and the Nomenklatura in the Soviet Union.  Trotsky called such an event a “political revolution”, as opposed to a “social revolution” — the latter being something like the French or Russian revolutions which radically changes property ownership.  A political revolution, in contrast, would leave socialistic property relations intact (as in, not restore capitalism), but replace the government with a new one, and the Communist Party with a new ruling Socialist Party.  The bourgeois equivalent would be, say, a palace coup; or like, for example, if Donald Trump was impeached and replaced by Hillary Clinton.  It wouldn’t change a damn thing in terms of the basic economic system, but it would certainly change a lot of things among the ruling elite in Washington DC.

East German Uprising of 1953

After Trotsky’s death, future events in Eastern Europe (East Germany 1953, Hungary 1956, Czechoslovakia 1968) were to prove that political revolution against the Stalin Nomenklatura was possible but not desirable.  Given the imperialist interest in such events, and that such uprisings, however spontaneous and sincere they start out to be in the beginning, are rather quickly, and inevitably, coopted by the United States and its NATO allies, for the purposes of capitalist counter-revolution, as opposed to reforming socialism.  The pinnacle of this can be seen in the Polish eventsof 1980, where the mass trade union movement Solidarność fought for — not a better brand of socialism — but for capitalist restoration under the benevolent aegis of the Pope, Saint Ronald Reagan, and NATO.  In a way, though, this sort or proved, indirectly, that Trotsky had been right when he insisted that the “political revolution” had to be led, not by trade unionists, but by a Marxist-Leninist vanguard party such as his own, the Fourth International.  Without a political party to lead it, all uprisings eventually just go whichever way the laws of entropy take them.  With the Imperialist economic system dominating Planet Earth, with its perennial meddling, and its perennial wars, it acts like a vast black hole, sucking in all light, and all hope, from the world.  This is probably one of the reasons why the Chinese leadership are doubling down and tightening up their own Nomenklatura system:  In self-defense!

[to be continued]

This entry was posted in Russian History, True Crime and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Chase/Trotsky: The Ultimate Sequel – Part III (D)

  1. Ryan Ward says:

    “After Trotsky’s death, future events in Eastern Europe (East Germany 1953, Hungary 1956, Czechoslovakia 1968) were to prove that political revolution against the Stalin Nomenklatura was possible but not desirable. Given the imperialist interest in such events, and that such uprisings, however spontaneous and sincere they start out to be in the beginning, are rather quickly, and inevitably, coopted by the United States and its NATO allies, for the purposes of capitalist counter-revolution, as opposed to reforming socialism. The pinnacle of this can be seen in the Polish events of 1980, where the mass trade union movement Solidarność fought for — not a better brand of socialism — but for capitalist restoration under the benevolent aegis of the Pope, Saint Ronald Reagan, and NATO.”

    This general topic seems to be becoming a bit of a hobby horse of mine, but I think there’s a distinction worth making here. There are two separate questions, which are somewhat fused in this paragraph. The first is, “Are the goals of a given movement good? Would their achievement be desirable?” The second is, “In a given bout of political upheaval, did the domestic protest movement successfully keep the movement on the track of its original goals, or were these “co-opted” in favour of someone else’s agenda?” The two questions are actually completely separate. Answers to the first question will of course depend on one’s own ideological persuasion, but whatever one’s ideology, all various combinations of responses to the two questions are possible. It’s possible that the indigenous protest movement had a good program which they successfully carried through, a good program that was “co-opted” into a bad program, a bad program that was successfully carried through, or a bad program that was successfully “co-opted” into a good program. Nor is there a line-up between the origin of influence and a specific ideological program. Communist parties, organized and funded from abroad, have frequently worked to infiltrate and redirect movements that were originally not Communist. On the other hand, indigenous movements have often been pro-Capitalist quite on their own, without needing to be “co-opted” from abroad (and of course, the reverse is true as well).

    In regard to the upheavals mentioned in this post, there’s no positive evidence that Western backers (other than the Pope in the case of Poland, and given that the Pope was himself Polish, painting him as a “foreign agent” is more than a little problematic) played key decisive roles in any of these situations. In the 1950’s and 1960’s, the Western countries had very few means of exerting influence in the Communist bloc, and no will to intervene militarily. As a result, the extent of Western influence on these movements was limited to radio broadcasts and conversations with leaders in the movements in question. This is hardly the level of involvement that would be required to back a claim of “co-optation”. In any case, in only one of the three cases (Hungary) was a result that the West would want to push for (withdrawal from the Warsaw Pact) even floated as a possibility. The Czech dissidents were quite clear that they had no intention of abandoning either the Warsaw Pact or socialism. They were just tired of taking orders from the Soviet Union on the details of the socialism they were supposed to enact, especially given that, by the late 60’s, the model wasn’t even performing particularly well. The East Germans had no elaborate political platform, and were simply reacting to the impositions of the harshest of the imposed regimes in Eastern Europe.

    Moving on to the situation in Poland, what happened there was indeed an explicitly capitalist revolution, but again, that’s a different question from the question of whether the revolution was “co-opted”. Pope John Paul II hardly engaged in any kind of “subterfuge” to dupe Polish workers and students into supporting a transition to Capitalism. He openly espoused the cause (as did Walesa) and the majority of the people supported them. Polls taken over the last thirty years have confirmed that the comfortable majority of Poles wanted nothing to do with Soviet-style Communism, and they haven’t changed their minds since. You might not like their decision, but there’s no reasonable way of denying that it was their decision, and they’re quite happy with it (As an aside, the same can be said for the East Germans, who report some of the highest levels of support anywhere in Eastern Europe for the Capitalist transition of 1989).

    As a final note, even where there does seem to be evidence of widespread, or even majority, regret at the outcome of 1989 (for example, in Hungary), this only goes to further demonstrate the ineptitude and general ham-handedness of the Soviet regime. What it shows is that the brutality and heavy-handedness of the Soviets alienated even people who should have been much more friendly to them. Actually, bringing up “foreign co-optation” is a little ironic when the governments we’re talking about were imposed at bayonet-point, given very little autonomy even in domestic matters (as the situation in Czechoslovakia shows clearly), and maintained in power when necessary by columns of foreign tanks. The result of this brutality and cynicism was to delegitimize the entire system it represented. People across Eastern Europe wanted rid of the Soviets, and were willing to throw out economic systems they might have been sympathetic to in normal circumstances to be rid of them.


    • Ryan Ward says:

      Oddly enough, Trotsky himself (of all people), makes the point I’m driving at in my last paragraph in his work “Again and Once More Again on the Nature of the USSR”. Given that this work dates from 1939, Trotsky was fairly prescient here in his understanding of the ways and means of the Soviet state. The attitudes and methods that would later underlie the imposition of the Eastern European governments were already visible. In this work, he writes,

      “Robespierre once said that people do not like missionaries with bayonets. By this he wished to say that it is impossible to impose revolutionary ideas and institutions on other people through military violence. This correct thought does not signify of course the inadmissibility of military intervention in other countries in order to cooperate in a revolution. But such an intervention, as part of a revolutionary international policy, must be understood by the international proletariat, must correspond to the desires of the toiling masses of the country on whose territory the revolutionary troops enter. The theory of socialism in one country is not capable, naturally, of creating this active international solidarity which alone can prepare and justify armed intervention. The Kremlin poses and resolves the question of military intervention, like all other questions of its policy, absolutely independently of the ideas and feelings of the international working class. Because of this, the latest diplomatic “successes” of the Kremlin monstrously compromise the USSR and introduce extreme confusion into the ranks of the world proletariat.”

      That’s exactly the point at issue in the imposition of the Communist governments of Eastern Europe. The Soviets acted 100% like old-style occupiers. The system they imposed happened to be Communism, but with the methods they used and the attitude they carried, it could just as well have been Capitalism, Islamic theocracy, old-style monarchism, or whatever else. The Soviets showed no respect or even interest in the views, concerns, attitudes and priorities of the people in the countries they conquered, and this applied to the working classes of those countries as much as anyone else. This really matters, and it changes the substance of the governance of countries like these. Indeed, it turns socialism, which is supposed to be about expanding the autonomy and self-governance of the working class, into its exact opposite, ie. the imposition of a detailed and rigid foreign program on local workers. Trotsky was wrong about the Soviet Union. It wasn’t a “deformed worker’s state”. It wasn’t a worker’s state at all. It was an intellectual/administrative state. The fact that the intellectuals and administrators claimed to be governing “on behalf of” the workers (while of course skimming off the best benefits for themselves) doesn’t differentiate them in any way from the old monarchies of Europe, which always claimed to be governing in a spirit of “noblesse oblige” to give the common people the good things they would be too stupid to get for themselves if they could run the show. This fact was only magnified all the more in Eastern Europe, where the beneficent despots (at least the ones who were really in control) weren’t even local, but far away in Moscow.


      • yalensis says:

        Ryan, I agreed with most of what you wrote, up until the last 6 sentences, starting with “Trotsky wasn’t wrong about the Soviet Union.” After that, you go cray-cray. Since there is no such animal as an “intellectual/administrative” state. Dubious if even Plato would admit such a possibility. Well, maybe Voltaire, with his lubricious fantasy of a Philosophers Paradise. But even then, dependent on a “benevolent despot” who also happened to be a major landowner and representative of the dominant ruling class.

        Of course, it all depends on the definition of “worker’s state.”
        I think you’re on the right track, more or less, but, using Marxist-Leninist vocabulary, you are showing some signs of “syndicalist deviationism” – ha ha!

        Fact is, unless you happen to be a Spanish anarchist, the term “worker’s state” is synonymous with “dictatorship of the proletariat”. And all that means is that the national wealth is not owned by private individuals, but by the entire working class.
        Where the “deformation” comes in, in Trotskyite lingo, is that the managers of the public wealth come to have too much political power and basically run the government unchecked. Which doesn’t change the fact that they do not own the means of production or have title to them, they only manage them.
        A true “workers state” in the syndicalist sense is impossible, by definition, because you can’t have a government consisting of, say, 10 million individuals all making political decisions. It would be like bedlam.
        There has to be some kind of representative government, in which elected leaders make decisions on behalf of their constituents.
        The problem with Stalinism is that the Party and state merged as one, and a managerial layer called the “Nomenklatura” assumed all government functions, not to mention all repressive functions, and became more or less unaccountable to their constituents.


        • Ryan Ward says:

          Now that you’re writing a whole post on the topic of a “worker’s state”, I think I’ll comment further there rather than here, but I just wanted to make one point here, because it’s a more general point. I agree with the statement, “A true “worker’s state” in the syndicalist sense is impossible,” but I think there’s more to be said on the issue. I would say that the value of an ideal shouldn’t be seen as lying in the ideal being realizable. The value lies in whether pursuing that ideal (even though you know you can’t attain it perfectly) leads to a better outcome than replacing it with some other ideal. Whether this is so or not depends on the case. For example, if you’re a runner, the ideal is to complete the race instantly. Obviously that ideal will never be literally realized, but the best thing to do is to get as close as possible to that goal. If a runner decided that an instant race was impossible, and decided to pursue the alternative goal of, say, completed the race with the lowest number of steps, the result wouldn’t be good. On the other hand, if you want to fly to Hawaii, but you don’t have enough fuel, you’re better off landing in San Diego than getting as close as you can to Hawaii and having your plane crash in the ocean. The point is that noting that a literal syndicalist worker’s state is impossible is just the beginning of the conversation. Given that it’s not, the question remains, is it best to pursue that goal and achieve it (imperfectly) as much as possible, or to substitute another goal? I think that’s a point worth keeping in mind as a frame for the discussion.


          • yalensis says:

            That’s a good general point, Ryan. And obviously there have been some attempts to incorporate “syndicalism”, workers control and the like into socialism. Some experiments in post-war Yugoslavia come to mind. I would reckon that anything that increases the level of democracy and physical comfort of the working population is a good thing. Trade unions themselves are the classic example, and they have been a mostly positive influence on capitalist societies.
            The whole topic of unions and workers actions under an actual socialist state, has been a thorny and complex one. I don’t think either Marx or Lenin addressed that issue, because they didn’t have any data to go on. Trotsky had some data and some experience, however. From what I understand, Trotsky was not fond of “workerism”, unless, say, strikes led to a political revolution against the Stalinist Nomenklatura.
            Because, in general, according to the laws of chaos theory, strikes can lead to just about anything, ranging from increased wages to regime-change and even capitalist revolution, as later events were to show.

            According to Trotsky (from what I understand), strikes in a socialist state are only desirable if there is a Trotskyite vanguard ready to jump in and guide the mass disturbances into the “correct” direction. Which is no doubt one of the reasons why Stalin made sure that no such vanguard could ever come into being in Russia!

            Trotsky also had some issues and feuds with the Mexican trade unions, since some of their members were seriously trying to kill him; and therefore did not endear themselves to him. It’s hard to imagine Trotsky writing a supportive pamphlet along the lines, “Yeah, these coal miners tried to shoot up my house yesterday – give those hard working guys a dental plan!”


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s