RR to BEA (25 February 2019)
Comrades from Bolshevik EA,
First of all we want to apologize for our 2-month delay in answering your kind letter. This was not due to indifference or lack of interest on our part, but rather because of the preparations for our first national conference in January and the tasks immediately following it. From now on, we hope to be able to more promptly answer your e-mails as well as return to the chats, which we hope we can do on video format. This would save a lot of time and allow us to discuss a broader range of issues in a 2-hour session.
We too are seriously interested in political discussions with you and agree with the cultural and linguistic barriers that may exist. We too are willing to overcome them if that is necessary to guarantee unity on the basis of revolutionary program. We have shared and will continue to share the transcription of our chats and all our interactions with all Revolutionary Regroupment members. As opposed to the IBT, we have nothing to hide. We will now proceed to answer your questions.
We will soon make our largest article on the civil war and imperialist attack against Libya available in English (for now, it is only available in Portuguese, unfortunately). Only a short statement and a polemic with a Brazilian group that politically shielded Qaddafi are available in English. We think that there was a very short period – namely between February and March 2011 — in which neither of the two contending factions of the bourgeoisie in Libya had yet been financially and militarily maintained or supported by imperialist powers (this would be the part we “agree with the IBT”). The military and tribal reactionary leaders of the opposition to Qaddafi attempted to channel the popular revolt against the Libyan dictator for the benefit of their interests. The coup in Benghazi is in reference to this opposition taking over the city of Benghazi. It was the first place where the opposition defeated Qaddafi’s government. We would have opposed their intent on that occasion (“we did not support it”). However, it was not until March that major imperialist powers started preparations for an intervention to bring the opposition to power and that marked a qualitative change. When this happened, it was a duty of all socialists to take a general position of “fight on the other side of the barricades”, even if it was dominated by Pro-Qaddafi forces. Their defeat by the hands of imperialist predators Obama, Cameron and Sarkozy meant the imposition of double chains against the Libyan people.
The war in Syria took much more complex traits than in Libya. We suggest you read one major article on this issue that we have translated into English. With the sentence that you quoted, what we meant is that there has been imperialist intervention in Syria through various ways since the beginning of the civil war. We do not necessarily side with Assad/Russian forces on every confrontation of that complex war. However we definitely take “the other side of the barricades” when there are imperialist forces involved. Those forces have been active by means of financing, training and giving logistical military support to certain “rebels” fighting in the civil war, as well as temporarily collaborating with the Kurdish SDF. While it is difficult to generalize all cases due to the fragmentation of oppositional forces in Syria, in many of those cases revolutionaries should say that Assad’s military victory was the “lesser evil” in face of imperialist proxies. What we are complaining about is the fact that the IBT did not seem to recognize this element of the civil war and declares to be “neutral” in conflicts between Assad’s army and rebel armies in general (even if those are financially and materially supported by U.S. imperialism).
3) Russian February revolution, Iran 1979 and Egypt 2011
Comrade Mikl talks about the “two faces” of the February revolution, Iran and Egypt. By no means have we had an “all or nothing” approach to reality. We are able to recognize partial gains and also the lesser evil when it exists and is not simply a scam. On the Russian February revolution of 1917, it is very easy to see these “two faces”. The abdication of the Czar led to the formation of a government headed by Prince Lvov, with the political dominance of the Russian bourgeoisie and landlords, mainly represented by the Cadets. This was nothing but a maneuver of the Russian bourgeoisie to fool workers who had bravely fought the Czar and the war in the streets of Petrograd. That it was so can be seen in all subsequent events. The new government continued the war and repressed the masses (including the Bolsheviks), even after the SR were brought to the center of gravity of the farce, with the formation of Kerensky’s cabinet.
What was then the other, progressive face of the February revolution? It is rooted in the fact that Soviets achieved a higher level of organization and authority among the working masses, mainly in Petrograd and Moscow. You correctly point out that “the army changed their loyalty from Czar to Soviet, workers’ and soldier’s Soviet was built and it had real power, so dual power situation was risen, Bolshevik rapidly grown on the legal and mass base”. All progressiveness was rooted in the advance in the self-organization of the workers’, the distinct feature of every revolution, from which the victory in October was a continuation. This was the main accomplishment of the February revolution, however fragile. This is not to be confused with the victory of the ascending liberals in the re-shuffle of the regime, which was no victory for workers.
From the point of view of state power, February was no more of a victory than Iran 1979 or Egypt in 2011. From the point of view of self-organization of the working class, February was way superior to Iran or Egypt, since there was no creation of organs of dual power in the latter cases. Any gains achieved in those situations (in terms of democratic rights or opening for revolutionary ideas) should of course be defended. But the ascension of different bourgeois forces to state power (the Islamic fundamentalists in Iran, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt) should not have been considered a “victory” from our point of view, but instead a maneuver of the capitalist class. This is the point that we have insisted with you. From the point of view of state power (the center of the revolutionary strategy for Leninists) no “victory” was achieved either by the Russian February revolution, Iran 1979 or Egypt 2011, no matter what other gains or possibilities were achieved in the arena of class struggle. That is why we defend the core of the Spartacist position on Iran, that the ascension of the Mullahs represented “no victory” for workers.
We are fine with recognizing certain temporary gains, but the source of those was the pressure of working class struggle, not the formation of a Mullah regime. Your comment that “everything has two faces, everything is the unity and conflict of opposites” is correct in abstract. Technically, even the most reactionary organs of the bourgeoisie may have internal contradictions and deformations as a reflection of class struggle and pressure from the working class. But this does not change their general class character, as well as the events in February 1917, Iran and Egypt did not change the class character of the state. You quote the February revolution being described by Trotsky as a victory since it triumphed over the Czar. There, Trotsky is talking about the spontaneous street insurrection by the workers of Petrograd, which was a practical victory, but whose organs were not yet ready to form a government (to a great extent due to opportunism and lack of political clarity of its vanguard). He is not discussing the general results of the process, like the ascension of liberals or the maintenance of power in the hands of the bourgeoisie. When we talk about whether or not those events can be called “victories”, we are discussing them from the point of view of state power. In the vacuum of power in Iran, we would have called for the construction of workers’ councils and the empowerment of a congress of workers’ and peasants’ councils. Only through this policy could any semblance of a February Revolution could be accomplished in Iran (if such a congress were formed but not conquered state power).
We have had many discussions with Brazilian Morenoites, for instance, about the transition of Latin American regimes from bourgeois dictatorships to bourgeois democracies in the 1980s. We have insisted that those did not represent “victories”, but a farce of the bourgeoisie to frustrate potential proletarian revolutions. The Morenoites have always argued that those were “victorious democratic revolutions”. We would like to ask your view on those events, as well as in what seems to us to be a similar situation happening in South Korea around the same time (transition from a bourgeois dictatorship to bourgeois democracy).
Lenin on the establishment of the February regime: the liberals won their victory due to the weakness of the proletarian vanguard, which needs to achieve “real” or durable victory:
“The peculiarity of the situation lies in that the Guchkov-Milyukov government gained the first victory with extraordinary ease due to the following three major circumstances: (1) assistance from Anglo-French finance capital and its agents; (2) assistance from part of the top ranks of the army; (3) the already existing organization of the entire Russian bourgeoisie in the shape of the rural and urban local government institutions, the State Duma, the war industries committees, and so forth.”
“Comrade workers! You performed miracles of proletarian heroism yesterday in overthrowing the tsarist monarchy. In the more or less near future (perhaps even now, as these lines are being written) you will again have to perform the same miracles of heroism to overthrow the rule of the land lords and capitalists, who are waging the imperialist war. You will not achieve durable victory in this next “real” revolution if you do not perform miracles of proletarian organization!”
Trotsky on the contradictions of the victory of the street insurrection in February: it placed power in the hands of the bourgeoisie.
“To the question, ‘Who led the February revolution?’ we can then answer definitely enough: conscious and tempered workers educated for the most part by the party of Lenin. But we must here immediately add: this leadership proved sufficient to guarantee the victory of the insurrection, but it was not adequate to transfer immediately into the hands of the proletarian vanguard the leadership of the revolution.
“The insurrection triumphed. But to whom did it hand over the power snatched from the monarchy? We come here to the central problem of the February revolution: why and how did the power turn up in the hands of the liberal bourgeoisie?”
Trotsky discussing the possibility of the transition to bourgeois democracy in Fascist Italy (and what it would represent): not a victory, but the abortion of a revolution not fully matured.
“Does this mean that Italy might not again turn for a certain time into a parliamentary state or become a “democratic republic”? I consider – apparently in complete agreement with you – that such a perspective is not excluded. But it can manifest itself, not as the product of a bourgeois revolution, but as the abortion of the proletarian revolution, which had not fully matured and which had not been brought to its conclusion. In the event of a profound revolutionary crisis and mass battles, in the course of which, however, the proletarian vanguard proves as yet incapable of coming to power, the bourgeoisie might restore its rule on “democratic” foundations.
“Is it permissible to say, for instance, that the existing German [Weimar] Republic is the conquest of a bourgeois revolution? Such a characterization would be absurd. What took place in Germany in 1918–19 was a proletarian revolution which for lack of leadership was deceived, betrayed and crushed. The bourgeois counter-revolution, however, was forced to adapt itself to the situation created by the crushing of the proletarian revolution and to assume the forms of a parliamentary “democratic” republic.
“Is something similar (within certain limits, of course) excluded for Italy? No, it is not. The enthronement of fascism came as a result of the 1920 proletarian revolution which was not carried to its conclusion. The fascists can be overthrown only by a new proletarian revolution. Should this again not be carried to its conclusion (owing to the weakness of the Communist Party, the maneuvers and betrayals of the Social-Democrats, the Free Masons, the Catholics), then the “transitional” state which the counter-revolutionary bourgeoisie would be compelled to create after the foundering of the fascist form of its rule could not be anything else but a parliamentary and democratic state.”
On behalf of Revolutionary Regroupment