Radek On Working Class Representative Government

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devoration1's picture
Joined: 18-07-10
Jun 28 2011 11:39
Radek On Working Class Representative Government

I've been reading Karl Radek's Dictatorship And Terrorism, and found his concise framing of the 2 revolutions of 1917 an interesting starting point for discussion on conditions in parts of the world today. The book was originally a Bolshevik response to Kautsky's anti-Bolshevik tractTerrorism And Communism; the polemic written by Radek has as its underlying theme that Second International Marxism had degenerated from a revolutionary to a bourgeois ideology, a tomb occupied by those who take the revolutionary content out of Marxism- largely by quoting the young[er] Kautsky against the older Kautsky- this is particularly damning in Kautsky's old and newer published opinions and analysis on the Paris Commune.

The following is the opening to Chapter 5 of Dictatorship And Terrorism, The Russian Sodom And Gomorrha:

We shall begin with facts that cannot be contraverted. During the period from March to November, 1917, the rule of the Russian bourgeoisie underwent a continuous process of dissolution. The bourgeoisie desired to carry on the war; the mass of peasants and workers wanted to end it, at whatever cost. [1]

The peasants wanted to seize the land and the feudal estates. The bourgeoisie, in conjunction with the Junkers, wished to avert this. The workers were not willing to endure the rule of the bourgeoisie any longer. That rule had ruined the country, and they were convinced that it could not build it up again. All the means of violence in the hands of the bourgeoisie were unavailing in face of the fact that proletarians and peasants were in a majority in the army, and that the working class were in control of industrial and governmental centers. In November 1917, the power of the bourgeoisie was at an end. What could the Marxists – the representatives of the working class – do in this process of the decay of capitalist power? (emphasis Radek's)


There are large sections of the world today where capitalist social relations and means of production are dominant, yet the class demarcations, conditions (such as extreme poverty and sprawling slums), weakness of the national bourgeoisie, etc make it likely that neither a local proletariat will be enough to overthrow and smash the state nor a national bourgeoisie will able to consolidate and recuperate power without the support of the workers and/or 'oppressed peoples' in the conceivable future. Much of the so called 'Third World' falls in this category.

The concept of a 'Holding Action', which is attributed by some pro-revolutionary currents to the RSFSR/USSR, is likely to come up again. An explosion of worker and 'oppressed peoples' anger through strikes, proto-self-organization, insurrections, etc could topple (and has toppled) weak national bourgeoisie's in the past numerous times. Several of the popular or united front National Liberation Movements fall into this category, as do the insurgencies in countries like India and Nepal.

I'm particularly interested in the thoughts of anarcho-syndicalists and libertarian communists as to what they think of such movements and events that may occur in the future following a similar pattern to those in the past, specifically if such events spark widespread unrest or topple weak governments. Is there any hope to recupe the gains of a proto-revolutionary movement in an area with a weak working class, if the rest of the world's workers (specifically in the advanced capitalist countries) are slow to catch up? I imagine just about everyone here is in agreement that no body can or should act as representatives of the proletariat; that such systems will act against the interests of the revolution in different ways (from the retardation of the Factory Committee movements in Germany and Russia to slaughter of the most advanced sections of workers such as Kronstadt and Barcelona)- that being the case, what chance is there to workers who manage to move in a revolutionary direction from a position of strategic, numerical or political weakness?