The “Leftist” critics of Socialism

leon-trotsky-photos

Many so-called leftist critics of historical Socialism often attack Leninists such as myself as “Stalinists” or “tankies” while proclaiming their own ideological superiority and purity. They are generally outraged or outright confused when Leninists suggest that these “leftist critics” are doing the work of the bourgeois and the imperialists. What do we mean by that?

What is Legitimate Criticism?

Marxism is a scientific type of Socialism and science learns from it’s mistakes. Therefore its logical and positive to engage in criticism and self-criticism and to keep in mind that the great socialist and progressive thinkers who came before us didn’t have the luxury of following any pre-existing model of socialism. They erred more often then not due to the fact that they were pioneers in uncharted territory. It shouldn’t surprise us they made mistakes but neither should we exaggerate those mistakes or use them to diminish their great successes and achievements. It is easier for us to see farther for we are standing on the shoulders of giants.

Leninists are by no means opposed to criticism. It is entirely legitimate to analyse and challenge the theoretical contributions of Lenin, how they were applied by Stalin, Mao or Che Guevara for instance. However this criticism should be principled and based on facts. So-called “leftist critics” like Trotskyists, various Anarchists and revisionists simply parrot bourgeois talking points, bourgeois propaganda and “facts” provided to them by bourgeois sources. Often times this is totally unintentional on their part. They simply do not possess the necessary source criticism, lack the understanding of how media, academia etc. functions and how the bourgeois influences them. Their inability to grasp this is particularly tragic as they claim to be Marxists and it was Marx himself who pointed out that the ideology of the ruling class is always the hegemonic one in society and as a result often held by a vast number of people even outside said ruling class.

”The Experts Tell Me You’re Wrong!” (Evidence & Burden of Proof)

Every now and then I encounter something akin to the following statements:
”Only Stalinist crackpots like you believe X”
”All experts agree. You who believe X are only a fringe group that is not to be trusted”

Everyone with even the most basic understanding of logic should realize the above statements are a logical fallacy – an appeal to authority, and to a degree an appeal to popularity. Naturally in many cases you would want to ask the opinion of an expert but even so it should be the evidence itself, not the person who is giving the evidence that should matter.

Basically it boils down to this: I believe or don’t believe something and instead of dealing with my argument like adults the opponents (whether they be liberals, anarchists, trotskyists etc.) choose to attack my position as too extreme, too outlandish to even be worth considering – especially since, as they say  ”the experts” are against me. But are the experts really against the Leninist point of view? Who even are these so-called experts? Due to the hegemonic position of the bourgeois point of view it is often seen as the default position by leftist critics of Socialism.

It is “mainstream” in the sense that the ruling class media and academia supports it, but that doesn’t mean it is by any sense objective or correct. The burden of proof lies on the one making the claim, not the one who is less popular. Still in the general political discussion the burden of proof is usually pushed onto the Communists themselves  to prove their innocence of wrong doings when in reality it should be on the ones making the accusations. A tendency among “leftist” and other critics of Socialism is to readily accept bourgeois propaganda against socialism, but approach any pro-socialist information with extreme skepticism because, “anti-capitalism is fringe” (and thus perceived as unreliable by default) while anti-communism is “mainstream” (and thus apparently automatically more reliable). In this way the burden of proof is effectively always shifted onto to the Communists.

The Anti-Soviet Paradigm

Without getting into the wider political debate I will point out that its no coincidence certain groups such as Trotskyists, anarchists, liberals etc. are more prone to believing the ”mainstream” (hegemonic bourgeois) point of view on various subjects. This is not an insult, or a judgement on the validity of this point of view, but merely a statement of fact.

To put matters bluntly, according to them, we Leninists are fringe crackpots who shut our eyes and ears from anything contradicting our worldview – while according to us they are gullible and anti-Marxist people believing almost anything the capitalists tell them. Maybe they are right. Maybe we are right. Maybe neither one of us is right, but this will have to be determined with evidence.

Let us ask ourselves this one question. Why are the Trotskyists for instance seemingly so eager to accept bourgeois sources as fact while the Leninists are so hesitant to do the same? Trotskyists and the bourgeois are both by enlarge critics of historical socialist experiments while Leninists tend to be defenders of them. For this reason the bourgeois generally tend to spread views hostile to historical socialism which Trotskyists eat up gleefully. Only the Leninist ”fringe” would defend historical socialism. Personally I believe that most supporters of Trotskyism are such precisely because this bourgeois propaganda.

Bourgeois Hegemony

Sometimes I’m taken by surprise by just how naive some self-proclaimed socialists are. I’m talking about the kind of ”left critics” of socialism who simply do not understand that the bourgeois have a countless number of overt and subtle ways of controlling information.

Is it any wonder that in the USA you cannot be a professional historian unless you periodically publish anti-Soviet material? J. Arch Getty, a liberal historian of the Soviet period comes under constant attacks from the Right as a Communist sympathizer because of his more balanced approach, and his views on the Soviet Union are hardly positive, just not negative enough. Since the beginning of the cold-war the CIA, HUAC and others have been overtly involved in monitoring how ‘history’ is written and presented to the public but on top of that the Robert Conquest school of red bashing also makes a lot of money for it’s authors. Check the sources on your history books, do they have primary sources or secondary sources? What are these sources? The Black Book of CommunismThe Great Terror? Or merely some other book citing the previous two as “evidence” of Communist atrocities?

The CIA has been, and still is deeply involved in the media (Operation Mockingbird, CCF, Radio Free Europe, NED etc. etc. etc.) and on top of that most of American media (which dominates the world) is in the hands of private corporations  in the hands of capitalists. They are not stupid, even when they don’t outright lie they choose to cover topics which cast a negative light on socialism and choose to ignore topics which portray socialism positively. They present a scale of authors or experts with varying degrees of anti-communist bias and thus appear to not be monolithic or to control the discussion. They even allow anti-government speech as long as its liberal enough or can be marginalized easily. News, documentaries or history books are not objective fact that falls from the sky  they are written and created by people, people who get together and plan what to write, how to write and when to write it.

Do the Capitalists Really Defend Ultra-Leftism, Trotskyism Or Anarchism?

The answer to this question is in a way both yes and no. Obviously capitalists don’t support any of the above mentioned -isms. However they share a common enemy with them. The CIA realized long ago that extreme Right-Wing or conservative anti-Communist propaganda doesn’t work well on liberals or Left-Wingers (cf. Congress for Cultural Freedom), instead its much more effective to claim that Anti-Soviet-ism is the real Left-wing thing to do (sic). George Orwell, Leon Trotsky, Khruschev, Gorbachev and even Noam Chomsky are some of the big names in “left-wing” anti-communism  people who appear to challenge capitalism but whose ideas are either entirely misguided ideologically, tactically unsound, dishonest or too limited in their scope to be effective and serve only to steer people away from genuine anti-capitalist struggle.

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On the Alleged Forgery of ”Lenin’s Testament”

(Thoughts regarding V.A. Sakharov’s article)

I have previously talked about some of the myths surrounding the collection of documents known as ”Lenin’s testament” or more accurately Lenin’s Letter to the Congress. We know Leon Trotsky distorted the whole meaning of these documents in order to use them as a political weapon against Stalin, his rival, and this is still a favorite pastime of Trotskyists to this day. They rarely stop to analyse the deeper meaning of the documents and focus on quoting and repeating ad nauseam a couple of select lines critical of Joseph Stalin.


In this article I won’t be going into the meaning or context behind those well-known passages (”Stalin is too rude and this defect, although quite tolerable in our midst and in dealing among us Communists, becomes intolerable in a Secretary-General” etc.) instead I will give my personal opinion on a controversial topic that has recently been on my mind – the alleged forgery of Lenin’s letters. My interest was sparked initially by V. A. Sakharov’s article published in English as The Forgery of the ‘Lenin Testament’ (1997).

How could it be?

At first the mere thought of the letters being forged seems too incredible. Afterall nobody doubted their authenticity at the time. Even Stalin rather then contesting their authenticity chose to apologize to Lenin and admit his rudeness publicly. However certain facts that have come to light raise some questions.


Sakharov divides the letter documents into two categories:


1) the texts and articles provably written by Lenin himself for instance the articles Better fewer, but better (January-March 1923) and On Cooperation (Jan 4-6 1923)

2) the texts which cannot be proven to have been written by Lenin. These are basically the later dictated additions to the letter. Curiously its precisely these few additions that cannot be proven to have come from Lenin’s pen which are also the ones critical of Stalin.

What is the evidence?

At this point everyone should be wondering about the evidence. The unfortunate fact is (as is often the case with controversial historical topics) that we might never know for absolute certain but here are the things we do know: the dictations are not signed by Lenin. Their authenticity could be verified by the diary of his secretariat but this is typically not the case, the diary was partially incomplete and filled retro-actively. On top of that the personal papers of Lenin’s doctors often outright contradict the alleged dates of the dictations, some of which are dated at times when Lenin’s doctors explicitly say he was not working with his secretaries or dictating anything.


While this does not prove the dictations to be forgeries it casts serious doubt on their authenticity. This taken with the fact that they are strikingly dissimilar to Lenin’s own writings both stylistically and in content and character I personally cannot anymore believe them to be authentic. Previously I held the view that the change in style and content to be the result of Lenin’s illness, that he was dying. However I no longer believe that to be the case.

The Argument

So what exactly do the forged segments say? They are critical of Stalin of course, questioning his ability to handle responsibility and his moral character, calling him rude etc., One might argue that surely if the supporters of Trotsky and Zinoviev had forged the documents then surely they would have been even more critical of Stalin? That is not necessarily the case. If you were trying to forge a Lenin document then what would you do? There were virtually no ideological or political differences or disagreements between Lenin and Stalin.


That leaves few options: questioning Stalin’s capabilities, referring to his rudeness (Zinoviev knew about the incident between Stalin & Krupskaya and even later tried exploiting it for political gain though this was promptly put an end to by Krupskaya and Maria Ulyanova), and criticizing Stalin’s practical work rather then theoretical or ideological position. Coincidentally (?) this is precisely what the dictated (forged?) segments exhibit. The seemingly illogical and uncharacteristic dictated addition on Stalin’s rudeness, a section questioning his capabilities to handle power and lastly the letters relating to Stalin’s, Orjonikidze’s and Dzershinsky’s handling of the war effort in Georgia.


Needless to say it would have been uncharacteristic for Lenin to criticize someone behind their back or conspire. Also taking matters personally and being offended or holding grudges would have been equally unlike him. In short, on top of being of unverified authenticity the dictated sections read like someone trying to attack others in Lenin’s name – pretending to be Lenin and doing a pretty bad job at it!

Footnotes:

The Forgery of the ‘Lenin Testament’” by V. A. Sakharov
http://www.revolutionarydemocracy.org/rdv7n1/LenTest.htm

On the Relations between Lenin and Stalin” by Maria Ulyanova http://www.revolutionarydemocracy.org/rdv8n1/lenstal.htm


mels