Today, we continue the five-post series, A Journey, tribute to Dr. Samuel Baron with this third post. Part II (see Part I here) focuses once more on the Russian Revolution of 1917, Marxist ideology as a Matterism worldview, and its supreme relevance today. We hope this history might shed some light on the Zoomin’ going on today and influence what you do in this time of civil unrest here in the City of Richmond and across the country.
The point for today: It’s up to you and the law.
In the video above, Dr. Baron offers a wise, 100-year perspective on the 1917 Revolution. He has much standing as an expert in the Russian Revolution and Marxist ideology. This was the ideology that drove the Revolution at the ground level. Furthermore, Dr. Baron was almost 100 years old in June 2013, exactly seven years ago. He was the seminal biographer of Georgi Plekhanov, the Marxist who inspired Lenin, Trotsky, and Stalin and the rest of the Bolshevik revolutionaries in the years leading up to the Revolution. Plekhanov’s work centered their debate about how to focus daily revolutionary work.
Dr. Baron’s primary point above is that Plekhanov himself split with the Bolshevik Party because he believed as a classical Marxist that Russia could not manage a revolution directly into socialism from a monarchy. He believed such a revolution would fail and have dire consequences for the country. Plekhanov had a genuine belief in sequential stages of history that needed decades or centuries of meaningful development to prepare humankind for the next stage. He believed history is a function of group or class development; it’s not dependent on any one hero or person. Leadership, therefore, is not the key and, in a sense, individuals are expendable. In the system versus hero debate, Plekhanov believed in systems, nations, cultures, ages, and “the environment” over individuals. You can’t hurry love, as the Supremes say.
In Russia prior to World War I, the situation was that there were three large factions contending for political rule: (1) the Czar (Nicholas II), a divine right king representing an autocratic regime with centuries of history with European and Asian influence, (2) liberal democrats (Alexander Kerensky), who wanted to replace the monarchy with a political-economy more like Britain or the U.S., and (3) Communists (Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin) who wanted to replace the monarchy with Bolshevik Party rule, then quickly move into socialism. The Bolsheviks called themselves Communists because they wanted to keep their final apocalyptic goal of Communism in full consciousness. No kidding, Book of Revelations kind of stuff. Start with the end in mind, the business consultants always say.
Each of these three factions represented large groups of people inside Russia and across the world. These factions would fight it out after World War I through strong and wealthy global alliances. During World War I, the liberal democrats and the Communists agreed that Czar Nicholas II had to go because he was inept and would not reform his regime, as for example, King William (and Mary) had agreed to do in England after the English Civil War in 1689. Similar monarchical rigidity from Louis XVI had resulted in the French Revolution in 1789. Many worldly Russians felt Czarist Russia was lagging too far behind Western Europe. “Progress” required that “the Mother country had some catchin’ up to do.”
Now we know what happened. World War I started, Nicholas II’s autocracy toppled to the liberal democrats or Constituent Assembly, and the liberal democrats fell to the Communists. Results 2 and 3 just mentioned all happened in 1917, though the final result was not certain until the Red Army defeated the liberal democrat White Army during the Russian Civil War between 1917 and 1923. The United States supplied the White Army, and the war devastated the country.
In fact, from the fall of Nicholas II, a raw power struggle developed from which Russia in 2020 has yet to recover. Let me state it another way: Russia is still paying for its murderous errors that grew out of World War I. The Russian Revolution exhibited much the same stages as the French Revolution and others. These parallels have resulted in many books suggesting that all revolutions go through the same basic stages. The Chinese Revolution that produced Communist China today is another good example. Great “sins” of the past always have their reckoning.
As an aside, the American Revolution might be an exception to standard stages of revolution, but that’s too much for today’s post. Moreover, as we best can know, the jury is still undecided here as it was prior to 1991 in Russia. Large powerful associations like Rome, the Holy Roman Empire, the Ottoman Empire, the Chinese Dynasties, France, the British Empire, Weimar Germany, and the Soviet Union usually crumble from within when the people lose their sense of self. When they start hating their better self. Bad finances don’t help either.
As most would agree given the Covid-19 and George Floyd circumstances, this is no laughing matter in America today. Not at all.
To return to Dr. Baron’s point above, he believes that the leader of the Bolshevik Party, Lenin, was correct prior to the Revolution that a revolutionary faction could take control and survive, while Plekhanov was also right that Russia would pay a terrible cost. Plekhanov believed that revolution in the name of communism might not be worth it, and that, ultimately, Bolshevism would never achieve a direct line to socialism and communism by following the Bolshevik pathway.
I think Dr. Baron was being kind to Lenin. In 20-20 hindsight, the Russian people experienced perhaps the most conspiratorially murderous regime (if one includes Stalin) in history which did not last, and that today it’s been replaced by a “regime” that looks more to Americans like Charles Luciano’s or Al Capone’s Mob organizations than, say, democratic Sweden (which is not a “socialist” country at all).
In other words, over the long run, Plekhanov was right that a Communist Revolution would force Russia into a state of chaos, resulting in replacing one autocracy (Nicholas the Czar) with another (Stalin the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union). To survive, mob rule would need to set in. A mob can exist in the form of an uncontrolled populace or a dictatorship with a vast, murderous kleptocracy, otherwise known as a bureaucracy or administrative state. In other words, I’d say that Plekhanov has rallied in the last few innings, and the scoreboard now reads Plekhanov 100, Lenin 6.
Look around. How is this relevant today? Beware whenever you hear that a “democratic regime” has declared a “president for life,” as has occurred in Russia and China. Julius Caesar did it and was assassinated, though Augustus made it stick. What do you see taking place in your own back yard? Is a mob ruling? Who is behind or ruling the mob?
Who is really for the rule of law with a genuine belief in it? No doubt, you out there in Praxis Circle Land will draw diametrically opposed conclusions concerning these questions and what’s happening now in the U.S. based upon this post’s presentation. If that happens, this post will be a success. We’ll see how well the rule of law determines the outcome and what the consequences will be.
So, for safety sake (Ha!), let’s return to Mother Russia and the Russian Revolution to shine more light on America today.
Praxis is the word that describes how humans operate in their daily lives to achieve their conscious goals. They develop theories in reaction to stimuli from life’s daily activity that occurs in a perpetual loop. Reality adjusts theory, and theory shapes reality in every conscious second. Praxis does not mean that humans are totally rational creatures or that emotions or feelings are not important, influential, or even dispositive in behavior. Of course not. We are very emotional creatures who more often than not act on our emotions and supply rationalizations afterward. Of course, this claim is the fad in psychology today: Emotions determine actions that reason then justifies.
Does emotion alone or passion reflect the history of the Russian Marxist revolutionary activity going back to the 1800’s? Lenin, Trotsky, and the rest would be insulted. Reason discovered Marxism, the truth of history. We believe the truth lies in the middle between current psychology as a science and the Enlightenment and its late spin-off, Marxism.
As mentioned before, Marxist and Roman Catholic “theologians” (for Marxism as religion, see the prior post, second segment) have recognized the importance of praxis for over 150 years and understood how praxis operates in people’s lives. Lenin and Trotsky knew as young men in the late 1800’s any revolutionary party needs a good narrative and plan to achieve its goals. As a result, by 1917, they had provided one, and it worked.
In sum, the Bolsheviks used a two-part theory all the way through the Russian Civil War. First, they used Trotsky’s theory of permanent revolution supplied in 1906 in Results and Prospects. This book provided the overarching revolutionary historical narrative. It depended on a world revolution occurring, perhaps in stages, that might result from a future European conflict of capitalism, referred to as an imperialistic war. Marx himself had suggested the word permanent many years before in one of his often catchy phrases. To avoid confusion, you can think of permanent as meaning “international.” The word permanent offers still more meaning because Marxist revolutionaries understood worldwide revolution to be their End Times, and the final act or epoch of human history by definition is not temporary.
With the help of more advanced countries in Europe, Lenin with Trotsky by 1917 had convinced themselves that Russia might be able to move directly into socialism and bypass capitalism completely. They had discovered the keys to historical truth: Praxis guided by the Party or vanguard would move Russia continuously and permanently into communism.
Second, they used Lenin’s theory of the Bolshevik Party as the vanguard of the masses supplied in 1902 in What is To Be Done? The book is a guide for Marxist parties seeking to seize and maintain political control. Its argument was worker revolutionary consciousness was not sufficiently developed in 1917, forcing the radical Marxist intellectuals to lead them. In Russia’s case, after the Bolsheviks took power, they planned to wait for help from the European worker revolutions sure to follow. Many revolutionary parties used What is To Be Done? as a handbook for subsequent revolutions later in the 20th Century; it operates much like Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals is used today by the Left in the attempt to subvert America.
In effect, to use an Aristotelian construct I promised that my dog, Henry (see bottom of post), will explain later, Marx and Trotsky supplied the Russian Revolution with its telos (1:11) or final cause, while Lenin supplied its material, formal, and efficient causes (3:07). By the way, both Trotsky’s and Lenin’s books are extremely short, so they left themselves plenty of wiggle room. This would come in handy for the duration of mob rule through the 1980’s.
Going into 1917, the Bolsheviks had a better plan than anyone else, events seemed to fall to their favor due to superior organization and aggression, and the plan to seize power worked just as constructed in important cities. It’s often said that success is what happens when preparation meets opportunity and skill. Lenin and Trotsky supplied the theory; Lenin managed the Party leaders; and Trotsky proved the supreme operator on the line and in the trenches.
For those of you interested in more, I offer a more detailed summary in the Supplement at the bottom here of Lenin and Trotsky’s role in the Revolution and the theory of permanent revolution itself, primarily using fascinating video available over the Internet. (Fascinating if you enjoy this kind of thing!) From here, I will begin wrapping up this post with some fun movie video and a few conclusions about Zoomin’.
By now I hope you are getting the idea of how Marxism is a religion just as much as any other. In fact, it’s a religion that seems to offer many aspects of Judaism and Christianity in seeing time as linear rather than circular. The difference is classical Marxism views history as predictable, even determined through scientific Marxism to the extent that one can see the future. This is not the case in mainstream Christianity and Judaism. To be fair, there are versions of Marxism that are not as deterministic.
Furthermore, Marxism also claims to seek justice similar to Judeo-Christian thought where the poor and oppressed are cared for and made whole. Few in the West would not sympathize today with these goals, with extreme disagreement centering how such a result might be actually achieved. In fact, this situation provides a terrific example of how good persons can have the same general goals but be at completely opposite ends of the political spectrum. The jury is out whether a bridge can be found, but the sun might be setting as we sit.
To be more specific on the Marxism as religion observation, looking back on the Russian Revolution, I see Marx as God and Moses (Marxism had no god) and Das Capital as its Ten Commandments. The first commandment is capital accumulation is necessary for socialism, the second is that the workers producing and closest to the pile of capital must take the lead into socialism, and the most important is that private property must be eliminated. Certainly, as Marxism has had to rationalize itself through its near continuous failure, these commandments have been modified.
To return to the analogy, as chronicled in the Old Testament, the Ark of the Covenant contained the Ten Commandments’ two tablets. As you probably know, prophets, priests, and soldiers carried the Ark from the Wilderness to the Promised Land, from sanctuary to sanctuary, from war to war, sheltering it in a tent called the Tabernacle. Eventually, the Ark obtained permanent residence under King Solomon at the center of his Temple (3:42) inside the “Holy of Holies,” the room where God resided on earth. Only the Chief Jewish Priest was allowed to enter the room of God each year on the Day of Atonement.
The Ark was lost when the Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar conquered Israel and Jerusalem, with the Babylonian Captivity beginning in 598 BC. The truth is that no one today knows what happened to the golden Ark (2:00) or the Ten Commandment tablets inside, though there are many theories. The New Testament mentions the Ark in several key places. Like Christians, Jews foresee an End Times where final reckoning will occur. In the West’s tradition, they invented the idea and made it famous. The Ark plays a role in Christian end times as foretold in the Book of Revelations. We might also think of Trotsky’s Result and Prospects and his theory of permanent revolution as Marxism’s final utopian dream. All will be made right and good. Justice will reign.
Please have fun with the video links we offer here to the movie Raiders of the Lost Ark, which made the Ark its central fictional theme. Mostly important, see the video below showing a movie climax where the evil Nazis open the Ark, experience ecstasy, violate the Biblical prohibition against looking at God, then turn to dust. They damn sure deserved it, we can all agree. They coveted the Ark knowing it would guarantee them absolute mob rule. When dealing with God, however, be careful what you wish for. Love, respect, and honor the Lord. Fear the Holy.
My main thesis in this Who’s Zoomin’ Who? series is that Bolsheviks thought they were Zoomin’ the Czar, the liberal democrats, “capitalism,” then national socialism and fascism, then Amerika, when they only ended up murdering themselves and fellow countrymen. Individuals were executed one-by-one or in groups. This is what happens when mob rule takes over and competition among mobs sets in. Mobs make other counter-organizations necessary, so that they can be stopped and even eliminated. It often gets personal and very ugly. Again, there is no doubt, mobs can operate without heads or with vanguards, or both.
However, once mob rule begins, it’s nearly impossible to get off the train of extreme violence. Welcome to the Soviet Union today. Finally, such piggish action usually doesn’t end well. It corrupts the fabric of a lawful society and increases corruption throughout. Many societies today have even rationalized violence and corruption as common and good. It’s just the way the world seems to be; Americans must rise above and prevent this, or go out of business.
At the end of the clip at top, Dr. Baron says that the result of the Russian Revolution was “the collectivization of agriculture and the creation of a totalitarian regime.” The latter means the creation of Stalin’s dictatorship all the way through the fall of Soviet Union. The collectivization of agriculture refers to just one of Stalin’s murderous ideas involving the nationalization of farmland and the brutal murder of millions of middle class kulaks and peasants.
We can be certain today that the collectivization of anything outside the nuclear family relating to commerce is beyond stupid, especially agriculture. Business is no different whatsoever.
Moreover, then, collectivization of agriculture in Russia was just the first in a long series of organized murder and imprisonment scenes Stalin would implement regularly on friends and enemies alike. Under Stalin it was common to line victims up on their knees and shoot them in the back of the head. Mass murder became as banal as fall’s crop harvest. It was necessary for the Revolution. As Stalin is famous for saying, “One death is a tragedy, and a million is a statistic.” Not surprising since that is such an easy conclusion given scientific materialism. Property is murdered just the same when unlawfully destroyed or stolen. This destroys livelihoods, hearts, and lives.
For further study, see what China is having to undergo with the CCP now. Talk about a bureaucratic mobocracy. How different is it when push comes to shove in Hong Kong today than during Mao’s era? Which brings us to our final points for today, where the key distinction between mob rule and justice is drawn.
Clearly, the brilliant and brave Bolsheviks as a group were wise in creating a revolution, but they were not wise at all in governing. In my view this is the primary takeaway from Marxism in history. Marxism provides handbooks for fostering discontent, setting groups of human beings against each other, taking control of power using techniques no different from those employed by Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Pol Pot, Attila, or Genghis Khan. It is using force to gain power and keep it. Not very complicated. We see these techniques employed in large and small ways everywhere across all worldviews and in all points of history.
Humans do this. Not just Marxists. There are no exceptions, and no Christians can claim immunity. Not by a long shot. There is a vast difference in degree, however, and the only explanation I can find is worldview.
Next time I will develop more carefully through Dr. Baron’s life story the theme that not one Bolshevik understood these two basics: (1) the importance of the difference between the rule of man or mob rule and the rule of law, (2) how to build a prosperous and free society from the ground up. #1 involves political construct, and #2 involves social, economic, and cultural constructs. Ultimately, the reigning power’s position on #1 is dispositive on #2. In today’s nation-state, government commands the military; #1 can always hold its jackboot on the head of #2.
My argument going forward in A Journey from here will be that the jury of history has convened and rendered a verdict that there’s only one way to do #1 and #2 that maximizes what humanity knows we can accomplish best as of today. A good and just society cannot have the rule of man or mob rule and the rule of law together. This is a mutually exclusive choice. The law of non-contradiction applies. It must be one or the other.
Mob rule cannot win in a just society whether it’s a one-man mob or the old-fashioned Bastille-like, Jacksonian storming-of-the-White House variety. Over the long run, America will only survive under the rule of law. Without that, America will become something else entirely, and it will not be better. Again, it might get extremely ugly around the next bend.
What happens without the rule of law is what happened to Trotsky himself and all the other original Bolshevik Marxists who didn’t understand how modern good, stable, prosperous, and flourishing societies must work. The circle of power kept shrinking until only one person remained. Each result was sufficient and necessary, and the supreme benefits outweighed the terrible long-term costs at each step, intended to maximize justice and happiness for all. Each tribal step involved a taking, even the necessary death or elimination of rivals.
Friends, our choice is the rule of man versus the rule of God and/or the law.
When things eventually spiral out of control and the moment of truth arrives, when Revelation arrives and the final contest is at hand, often one person must take fate into his or her own hands. The question for everyone else is whether that person is good, evil, or average with fates supporting. In the case of the great Western movie Shane, featured several times already, that person was good, and the people of the valley no doubt lived in prosperity and peace long afterwards. See Shane’s famous, final, and apocalyptic scene below.
In the case of America, that person in George Washington was good. He limited himself against the advice of certain others and stepped down at more than one key moment. He believed government was a limited service provided to the people for narrow, agreed upon purposes, with law protection, enforcement, and national defense being at the very top. This remains the American model today. We are unusual, perhaps, in history with the military reporting to the president who is not a general. The president is viewed to be representative of the people who elected him and the law they enacted. The law must still rule in the U.S.
America should be eternally grateful for its wonderful Founders, though they and their times were highly flawed from today’s perspective. Many great Americans since the American Revolution like those men on Monument Avenue have tried to protect their world against subjugation and mob rule, as they saw it. So far as we can tell, most Americans have done their best most times to do what’s thought is right. At times we as Americans have honestly disagreed violently, but the fates have kept us together. For now.
Let’s hope the military doesn’t find itself having to make terrible choices between Americans again.
How worlds and nations begin much determines how they end. Soviet Russia did not have such a founding or such world class Founders in character, education, or experience. Neither did France or China. We should be deeply grateful to our Founders and do our utmost to preserve their memory. Their descendants and their families were on both sides during the Civil War and are on all sides today, regardless of race, class, or sex. Americans strive not to focus on race, sex, or class, certainly when the law is involved. This has been my experience during all my years.
No truth needs to be spared when shining a light on history, but we must try to understand the people and their times as best we can from their own perspective. That is what good historians do. We appear to have lost this ability, in my opinion. Virtue signaling among people today is silly and childish. It is not a mature perspective. It is only self-interested. We have it quite easy today, thanks to our ancestors.
First and foremost, we must protect against mob rule whenever we see it – which in America today means taking the rule of law into one’s own hands. There are not enough policemen or soldiers to enforce the law when the rule of law breaks down. That’s why we might at some point need to rely in the extreme on the power that really lies behind the Constitution – it resides in the law and with the People.
Just like at the end of Shane, we’re all little Joeys now.
Supplement on the Russian Revolution
The Supplement below is only for those with a more detailed interest the Russian Revolution of 1917, and the Marxist narrative that made it happen.
- Good things come in threes? Three is a good number. Or is it?
- Two’s a company and three’s a crowd?
- One the loneliest number?
Watch out when facing ambitious, self-righteous, wounded, or bad men and women competing for power and glory. Distinguish them from those desperately in need. Lend a hand in the latter case.
Since approximately the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648, there have been four revolutions (English, American, French, and Russian) and four wars (Napoleonic, American Civil, World War I, and World War II) that one must understand well to understand Western history during that period. There certainly were other major wars and government changes that were important, but many of those were related in some way to the revolutions and wars already listed. Of course, each revolution constituted a war and some of these revolutions related directly to the key wars.
The Russian Revolution’s relation to World War I is a prime example. It was the first fully successful revolution sparked in name of and, it was believed, in accordance with, Marxist ideology. There were prior attempts as early as 1848, when the Communist Manifesto was first read, but they ultimately failed to counter movements.
To refresh your memory about the Russian Revolution, please review this short video (3:13). Do not be put off by its entertainment value or brevity; it’s accurate as summary. If you would like an even better, longer version that only a fast personally delivered presentation can provide, see this video (10:06).
Since 1917 through today, the 1917 Revolution has been studied as a model for many Marxist inspired revolutions all over the world, most famously the Chinese Communist Revolution of the 1940’s. As mentioned already, Marxism works best as a theory of revolution, rather than as a theory of governance, because it’s based on forceful dialectical conflict among classes and supports any means necessary to achieve its goals. Marxism’s approach to the law is postmodernist in the sense that it sees morality as relative and law as a tool to be manipulated by the class in power. There is objective Marxist truth, but there is no Judeo-Christian or even secular humanist truth.
In many ways Trotsky was equal to Lenin as a leader of the Revolution, and the Revolution’s true theorist. That realization sparked my interest in doing a research project on Trotsky’s theory of permanent revolution that he developed over time on an ongoing basis during and after the Russian Revolution, but squarely out of the failed Russian Revolution of 1905. I had no idea then that I had been drawn to the key figure who would inspire so many Marxists outside of Russia across the world and even in the United States after World War II. Trotsky remains a great sentimental favorite today from Far Leftist liberation revolutionaries to today’s neoconservatives. Many original Neo-cons were formerly Marxists or Leftists who changed their worldview when they realized Marxism is largely nonsense.
The Revolution of 1905 is often regarded in hindsight as a dress rehearsal for the 1917 Revolution. However, even cursory review of events inside and outside Russia show that a Bolshevik takeover was not only uncertain, but unlikely.
This video (11:35) zeroes in on Lenin and Trotsky. It provides an excellent description of how important Trotsky was to the 1917 Revolution. It explains how complex their relationship was, and how Trotsky’s relationship the Bolsheviks developed. In the beginning, the Bolsheviks (the Majority) were the minority party, and the Mensheviks following Plekhanov’s lead were the majority. All of the jockeying between the many revolutionary factions involved Marxist ideology applied to Russian historical situations and the facts in play.
Marxist theoretical debates within Russia covered over political power relationships and personal rivalries just like the theological debates across Europe did out in the open between Catholics and Protestants across Europe prior to 1648, and, afterwards, well into the 20th Century. Trotsky himself joined the Bolsheviks rather late in the Russian revolutionary game, which early members like Stalin, Zinoviev, and Kamenev did not forget. The video linked above describes how vital Trotsky was to the leadership and organization of the revolution through the Soviets.
It also suggests how vital slogans, labels, word-use, and name-recognition are when political situations are in critical stages. Successful revolutionaries have consistently understood the essential skill of language manipulation for as long as history has experienced revolutions. As a final note on the linked video just above, it mentions nothing about Trotsky’s permanent revolution theory, focusing more on Lenin’s party organizational strategies. As a result, I should offer a bit more about that before concluding here on the Revolution itself.
Stated other ways already, what we really do not often understand in America today is that Marxists since the mid-1800’s believed that they had discovered the secret, almost gnostic formula of historical truth – historical and scientific materialism as presented by Marx, Engels, and others. They believed Marxism’s insights adopted from Hegel could offer even Middle Earth mortals a full understanding of history as it unfolds. In other words, it gave Marxist believers a way to foresee the future in ways little different from Merlin the Magician in The Sword in the Stone.
To say the least, the discovery of such magical knowledge – the knowledge of absolute truth itself – is beyond thrilling and confers magical powers. In that sense, the Raiders of the Lost Ark video featured in this post’s main body above portrays the real truth of Marxists in history, as does the clip from Reds (7:43) that began the last post.
Dr. Baron had written the seminal biography on Georgi Plekhanov, the Russian revolutionary who had first taken Marxist ideology and, with skill and authority, applied it to Russia. Since the French Revolution, much of Continental Europe had come to view divine right monarchies as undemocratic, unjust dictatorships. The Russian monarchy failed to abolish serfdom and formal aristocracy fast enough, as the rest of Europe progressed into the “bourgeois” Industrial Revolution.
By 1900 as the result of Europe’s anti-king trend, Russian factions had already been seeking to overthrow the Czarist monarchy for over a century. Plekhanov and others at the time were applying Marxism to the great problem: How to get rid of the monarchy and place power in the hands of the Russian people, workers, and peasants. (As Stalin’s reign indicated, many Russian Marxists and anarchists believed the Russian Czar, aristocracy, and middle classes deserved to die, if they didn’t get woke fast.)
What Plekhanov concluded was that the Russian economy was far too agricultural and underdeveloped, still lacking advanced industry, for such a large country to go straight from a feudal monarchy as late as the 1850’s to socialist rule. Therefore, he saw revolution in Russia as a two-stage process. First, there would be a capitalist bourgeois revolution, and then, after capitalism had sufficiently developed after perhaps many years, a socialist revolution could follow to overthrow constitutional democracy.
True Marxists, whether cultural, postmodernist, or otherwise, do not relinquish this basic narrative; they simply spread it out over time; they remain more than willing to apply their cruel utilitarian calculus whenever they think it can work.
We can see today that the same issue of Whither Revolution applied to China in the 1940’s. The CCP under Mao used murder frequently when necessary. And yet, it has showed a willingness to harken back to Plekhanov and Lenin’s post-Revolution New Economic Policy or NEP. It was Deng Xiaoping who made the decision that China, too, needed advanced capitalism before achieving “true socialism.” With this in mind, Xiaoping and China unleashed its own highly managed private sector in 1978, including its Open Door policy to foreign investment. The nature of the mousetrap doesn’t matter as long as it catches mice. Read: as long as the CCP mob maintains absolute control over Chinese lives.
Only the Party matters, not freedom. Freedom is a tool elites manipulate for the good of the people. Sound familiar?
As we can see, therefore, Marxism remains extremely relevant all over the world because the socialist dream has never been realized. The Marxist fantasy, “true socialism,” is always dangled before us. But Marxists think we’re closing the gap in China, Europe, America, and South America.
A Journey will consistently argue that the historical facts show that to follow a true “socialist” path would be regressive, if not self-destructive. It would certainly be folly. I pray that it does not become even more murderous.
The debate among the future Russian revolutionaries going into the totally unexpected Revolution of 1905 centered on whether Marxists like Lenin, who wanted to lead a revolution and overthrow Czar Nicholas II, should do so. The people’s revolt that year in St. Petersburg was so spontaneous that all were caught off guard, and the Czar and his military and secret police severely clamped down after that. The last czarist regimes were terrible at governing, but they were extremely good at using secret police to weed out revolutionary movements. Of course, this had the equal and opposite effect of making Russian revolutionary groups more organized, radical, and effective than those older but weaker ones in Western Europe.
In classic Russian fashion after the 1917 Revolution occurred, the secret police, having been in existence for as long as Russians could remember, simply changed hats. It wasn’t quite that simple, of course; the point being that the operation of secret police outside any law had become ingrained in Russian social practice.
Russia’s extremely long and despotic history is that it has gone from one mob’s rule to the next. This helps explain Russian Mob-like practices today. China is no different. By the way, this does not mean that whatever mob was never popular. Most mobs are popular within their context.
So, out of the Revolution of 1905, Trotsky then developed his theory of permanent revolution in a short, readable book, Results and Prospects. Lenin and the entire Bolshevik Party would later adopt its grand global principles during World War I to justify the overthrow and murder of the Czar, his family, and, eventually, anyone who stood in the way. It was easy and expedient to be hopeful about world revolution in Russia during World War I after European worker unrest surfaced in Europe and America during the 1800’s, the 1905 Revolution, and the worker unrest developed during WW I itself.
What my paper did was compare what Trotsky predicted would happen in 1906 to what actually happened in 1917, and until Stalin forced Trotsky out of the Soviet Union in 1928. To my knowledge, this had not been done directly in a simple way even by Trotsky’s renowned biographer, Isaac Deutscher, who was the author of the famous Trotsky trilogy that was used as a central reference. It goes without saying that Deutscher saw Trotsky as an Old Testament-like prophet, and that Marxists love to talk about their own many prophets like most Jews, Christians, or Muslims. It really does matter to them what their Abraham did and how things panned out between Sarah and Hagar. (One final vanity note on my history paper. It’s funny that a PH.D thesis was published several years later that looked awfully similar.)
What Baron and I found doing the comparison was Trotsky’s success and then failure as a Soviet leader between 1917 and 1928 directly paralleled the predictive power of his theory; in other words, when his magic formula maintained its predictive power, calling for world revolution during World War I and afterwards, his power increased. When the prospects of world socialist revolution faded with each passing year after the war, his power declined. Trotsky’s power and the Bolshevik Party’s faith also matched the interplay of rapidly changing Russian national circumstances with Trotsky’s own grand strengths and tragic flaws. A better ancient Greek tragedy could not have been written. Only real history can make this material up.
In other words, Trotsky’s own Marxist worldview did largely shape the Revolution itself, but it then cooked his goose as a Bolshevik once permanent or international revolution’s magic spell wore off. The death in 1924 of Trotsky’s essential ally, Lenin, probably sealed his fate within the Party, in any case.
Again, tragically, as known facts today allow us to speculate, Lenin was just realizing on his deathbed the monstrous mistake he had made in allowing Stalin to accumulate so much power. From the death of Lenin on, as mentioned above, the history of Russian Communism came to resemble more the history of the New York mob during the first half of the 20th Century than the subsequent progress of the English, American, or French Revolutions.
And there we have Russia (and China) today.
Briefly, permanent revolution went like this: Western European capitalism in countries like Germany, Britain, France, and the United States, and even Japan in the east, were in a highly developed state with workers constituting an organized majority in urban areas. These countries had also in an economic sense benefited from hundreds of years of “colonialist” development and had entered a later stage of global “imperialism.”
None of these countries today deny that they did not benefit greatly from the West’s contact. As well, no one is the world today would deny that when worldviews collide, destruction and misery are common.
As a result of “colonial capitalism,” the Russian revolutionaries believed the world had begun to experience extreme, inevitable capitalist conflict, as had broken out with the Russo-Japanese War in 1905. The Czar ineptly managed this war, and it caused extreme hardship in Russia.
Of course, Russia was new to capitalism with a working class consisting of only one to seven percent of its population, depending on the definition of worker and the year being measured. All agreed Russia could not go directly into socialism on its own. The Bolshevik Party would only be able to seize power during World War I, which had been predicted. Bolsheviks hoped their revolution would then serve as the spark for permanent revolution. Bolsheviks’ dream was they would usher in socialism on an international scale for all time.
Of course, this never came close to happening.
Alan Wood, a British Trotskyist, offers a long (1:03:06) discussion of the permanent revolution theory here. He is an accomplished Marxist who supported Hugo Chavez. I’m sure I would be grossly bourgeois to him.
Notice how he talks about people. Notice how he pontificates from a position of absolute certainty and knowledge. Marxist analysis is elitist by its very nature without having to get to its substance. In my opinion, it would not be hard for Mr. Wood to take extreme measures against others, regardless of the law, if his life was threatened and if he had the power stick. (By the way, he doesn’t mention permanent revolution much at all until 40 or 50 minutes into the presentation, but it is an entertaining talk.)
It should become clear in watching such videos how relevant Marxism remains.
In spite of the Left’s open talk of socialism today, many Americans do not make the connection. Again, Marxism is an elitist ideology even when Third World peasants are having the conversation. There are always intellectuals talking about you and your groups, as if all are experimental mice they as intellectuals can manipulate.
Socialism requires elitist manipulation. This is deeply wrong, and it kills, as Stalin and his vast, murderous bureaucracy proves. This is risked with any form of socialism because if you aren’t making the decisions for your family and for the use of the money you earn with the help of others, someone else is. That someone is in the government, who controls the military and police. This was common knowledge to our Founders because they lived it. This fact has nothing to do with class.
The reality is that people love talking in Marxist terms; it can be fun. It makes us sound like intellectuals. I enjoy it, too. Dr. Baron admits he enjoyed it and went into his profession to make a difference. I think he did – certainly in my case.
Here’s a final example (42:01) of a smart, well-educated, and very likable Pakistani Marxist doing his version of why he’s not a Trotskyist. He offers a much better explanation of permanent revolution. He believes permanent revolution is a Euro-centric Marxist ideology that didn’t fit the Third World situation in the 20th Century, which has proven Trotsky’s theory wrong in important ways.
Apparently, the world needs a Marxism where modern day peasants can be Marxists, too, as in China and Vietnam. We can’t wait around for capitalism to develop fully; we need to go into socialism now. Marxist praxis will guide us, as Lenin suggested in 1899. As W.C. Field famously said when caught scanning the Bible, “I’m looking for loopholes.” Well, they’re always there to be found in Das Kapital and permanent revolution, too.
To return to our primary historical figure of this Zoomin’ series, what Trotsky suggested in Results and Prospects is that a world war might develop that would bring down the Russian Czarist regime, that the Russian revolutionaries could then take power from any resulting Constitutional democracy that might develop as had ostensibly happened in other situations like the French Revolution.
Once taking power, the Russian socialist workers’ government would then await inevitable worldwide workers or proletariat revolution in the far more developed European countries already mentioned. In essence, Russia could make a direct leap from being an agricultural country with modest, light industry in a few cities over a vast land mass into socialism, bypassing the normally necessary high capitalist stage, with the help of young, post-revolutionary Marxist workers’ governments in Western Europe. This would all happen in and around a world war. Lenin moved to Trotsky’s position during World War I.
The Western world would experience a permanent worker’s revolution and very possibly spring the rest of the world forward into socialism. The last final permanent process of continuous revolution would end eventually in worldwide Communism. Just as various religions call their followers to expand the group, so does Marxism. In fact, classical Marxists believe that’s absolutely necessary for socialism and communism to work.
Naturally, as part of all of this imaginative vision, workers would continue to join Communist International organizations that would assist their brothers in Russia obtaining the benefits of advanced industrialization and improved agricultural practice. In sum, Russia would be able to bypass Plekhanov’s suggested two-stage temporary revolution into worldwide “permanent revolution” all in one giant step, even as an underdeveloped country. Obviously, this idea was good news to Lenin in 1917 as he was looking for any means available for his party of workers to justify taking power in a vast and still backward by Western standards agrarian country. Again, it had been less than 50 years since czarist Russia had abolished serfdom. Peasants outnumbered industrial workers in vast quantity, and they were known to be “conservative.”
We know today worldwide revolution failed because the workers in the advanced capitalist nations loved their nations and families much more than they might have sympathized with workers in other countries. As it turned out, the leaders of other countries were not attracted to Soviet Russia’s model, leaders, or methods. Today, it appears many of socialism’s ideas and methods were either evil or comically wrong. That’s why Russian jokes are so good. Certainly, socialists always have the collective, communist, or utopian dream of the future. This is a true advantage because it’s a great narrative for taking power.
But there are many other important reasons why world revolution failed during WW I and II, and they cannot be addressed here. One that must be mentioned, however, is that “capitalism” changed with praxis, too. It became more worker & family fair and friendly. It became in organization and practice less militaristic and more collaborative. The pay improved, and living standards quickly skyrocketed during peacetime. Most people who work for a long time today like their jobs. Besides, we aren’t even sure who the average proletarian is, other than he or she loves Apple products and Starbucks.
It was obvious the Russian Marxists didn’t know what they were doing in politics, economics, or social organization. The CCP has the same issues. We were right; they were wrong. Marxist theory does not embrace a workable model of human behavior or history, and it is interesting but false. As the International Revolution dragged on, key Marxists saw it was foolish and left it in droves.
I have only been to China once and that was in 1998, but I’m told and have read that many Chinese Communists don’t believe Marxism today. If true, one wonders how long the CCP can last.
How to summarize Trotsky and the Russian Revolution’s attempt at permanent revolution from 1917 through the end of the Russian Civil War won by the Reds, with Trotsky in command, in 1923?
It was the ultimate example of Marxist praxis in world history. To Marxists, World War I and the Russian Revolution was the truth of history as they understood it and were using it minute-by-minute to their extreme advantage. They believed they were seeing the truth of history unfold in unbelievable splendor before their eyes, just like opening the Tabernacle to behold the Tablets of the Ten Commandments in an Indiana Jones movie shown above. Using another movie analogy, as in Mary Poppins (5:30), Trotsky and others for a few moments thought they were jumping in and out of a beautiful chalk mural they were drawing themselves on history’s sidewalk.
Again, Marx as Moses had written the Marxist’s Bible’s Pentateuch, Das Capital, which Plekhanov and Trotsky, primarily, had fully translated into the Russian context as early as 1906, just after benefiting from the experience of the failed Revolution of 1905. In Results and Prospects, Trotsky had written the book of materialism’s Revelation, and World War I signaled the predictive power of Marxist truth Trotsky had borrowed and applied. The great contradictions of global capitalism had finally manifested themselves, and the Marxist Apocalypse in World War I had arrived.
No one was “immanentizing any eschaton”; no, Marxism does not work that way. It was Marxism’s historical forces, laws, and superstructures as dictated by scientific, historical, and dialectical materialism, though each type is different, that was making it happen in the fullness of time. It was not the leadership or fault of any one person or party, no matter how gifted, focused, or disciplined any one person or party might be. Quite the opposite – Party members are expendable, not to mention any other person that gets in the way.
In the case of my little undergrad honors thesis of 1978, such grandiose or silly analogies or metaphors would not have been appropriate coming out of the History Department at UNC, and I’m not sure I even had the background then to appreciate it fully. Nonetheless, this is what I was seeing clearly between 1976 and 1978 as I read Trotsky’s words and various historical accounts of events before, during, and after the 1917 Revolution.
While I tried, I certainly could not express it well to my own “brothers” over a keg in the Party Room. They know who they are and exactly where and when that was. But clearly, Marxism was just as much a “religion” to its followers as Christianity became to Jesus’ disciples during and after his ministry. As after the Marxist Resurrection in 1917, many Russian Marxists, in fact, many Marxists worldwide who had followed events in Russia during World War I closely, believed no less than a “New Creation” had broken into history. The only question was, would the eschaton happen at the same time or later as the consequences of world revolution became permanent?
(Funny thing, I believed then and do now that a New Creation began somewhere around 29-33 A.D. But more on that later.)
Then, when world revolution didn’t happen after the end of World War I, disillusionment set in among the Communist International and inside the Soviet Union, and the debate became one of laying blame, searching for scapegoats, and devising new Marxist survival strategies that could fit new Marxist interpretations of history. This led to Stalin’s “Socialism in One Country,” Trotsky’s eventual murder in Mexico in 1940, and the consolidation of power of some would say the greatest mass murderer in history. A “Deep State” if there ever was one, and none of it was good.
Next time, we will continue with why all of this means we need to start thinking about worldview concepts more carefully, and fairly soon lose the word capitalism in the West and replace it with our own words based on the truth of history that we see as Americans. My personal theme is, “We’ll show Trotsky what permanent revolution is about.”