Banda’s “27 Reasons Why the International Committee Should Be Buried Forthwith and the Fourth International Built” was eagerly embraced by all those who agreed with the proposal advanced in the first part of the title. Among revisionists and centrists all over the world, but first and foremost within the WRP itself, Banda’s diatribe was hailed as the death blow to the International Committee. Upon receiving Banda’s document in January 1986, the WRP Central Committee immediately used it as the political basis for the drafting of two resolutions, passed by a vote of 12 to 3, repudiating the political authority of the International Committee.
Just one day after Banda’s document was published in the February 7, 1986 issue of Workers Press, weekly organ of the WRP, the three Central Committee members who had voted against the resolutions as well as all other supporters of the International Committee were barred, with the aid of police, from attending the scheduled eighth congress of the WRP and then expelled from the organization. This action completed the WRP’s split from the International Committee.
“27 Reasons” was pronounced to be a significant contribution to the initiation of a new discussion on the history of the Trotskyist movement. While Bill Hunter, for example, found Banda’s document to be “one-sided,” objecting (in the polite “gentlemanly” manner beloved by the British middle class) to the most obvious falsifications of the history of the Fourth International prior to 1953, he did not object either to Banda’s denunciation of the “Open Letter” or to the proposed burial of the International Committee.
An even less critical attitude was adopted by Cliff Slaughter, who wrote on March 11, 1986: “ ‘the discussion on Mike B’s document must continue, and I am not going to take it up here. I will say that Mike struck a blow against North’s ludicrous claim for continuity, and centralised authority. I agree with Mike that the FI was proclaimed but never built. I believe that Mike does not say how and why it should now be built, but I am sure he will.’ ”
As might be expected, on the subject of Banda’s funeral arrangements, the International Committee held a different opinion of his document. Insofar as last rites were in order, the ICFI concluded, upon reading his “27 Reasons,” that they should be administered to Banda. The very first paragraph of our analysis titled “The Heritage We Defend” declared:
As far as Marxism and the struggle for socialism is concerned, Michael Banda, the general secretary of the Workers Revolutionary Party, can no longer be counted among the living. With the publication of his “27 Reasons Why the International Committee Should Be Buried Forthwith and the Fourth International Built,” Banda has declared his irrevocable political break with Trotskyism and has severed all connections with the revolutionary movement under whose banner he had fought his entire adult life.
The beginning of our analysis, published while Banda was still general secretary of the WRP, drew attention to the implications of his “27 Reasons”: “Thus, Banda’s attack is not limited to the International Committee. He is challenging the political legitimacy of the Fourth International and the specific tendency known as Trotskyism. …
“To give credence to Banda’s arguments means acknowledging that it is necessary to reconsider the whole place our international movement has traditionally assigned to Trotsky in the history of Marxism.”
This analysis of the significance of Banda’s document has been entirely substantiated. In bringing our examination of “27 Reasons” to a conclusion, there is no need to speculate about Banda’s future evolution. A new document written by Banda at the end of 1986 has come into our possession, and it records his irrevocable passage into the camp of counterrevolution.
Titled “What is Trotskyism? Or Will the Real Trotsky Please Stand Up?” Banda’s new document is a frantic denunciation of Trotskyism, a belated tribute to Joseph Stalin and a declaration of political allegiance to the Kremlin bureaucracy. It is an open attack on the entire struggle waged by Trotsky from the 1920s on against the degeneration of the Bolshevik Party, the usurpation of political power by the Stalinist bureaucracy and the betrayal of the Russian and world socialist revolution. In this new attack, Banda quotes the texts of everyone from the ultrarightist James Burnham, to the state capitalist Max Shachtman, to the theoretical godfather of Pabloite revisionism, Isaac Deutscher. After having spent forty years in the Fourth International, Banda has discovered that Leon Trotsky was wrong in refusing to capitulate to Stalin in 1928! Trotskyism, he writes, “has now become synonymous with scholastic pettifogging and centrist rhetoric combined with the most grotesque political prostration before the Social Democratic bureaucracy and the imperialist state. Together with the Euro-Communists it stands as one of the most discredited of anti-communist, anti-Soviet and anti-working class groups outside the Social Democracy.”
That is not all. Banda now asserts that he was mistaken in his previous belief that Trotsky’s politics could not be held responsible for the crisis inside the International Committee:
In my “27 Reasons” I incorrectly stated that Trotsky had “sown dragon’s teeth and reaped fleas.” This only shows how widespread and deep were Trotsky’s mystifications and mis-education of generations of would-be Marxist revolutionaries who spurned the Popular Frontism of the Comintern and turned to Trotskyism on the mistaken assumption that this was authentic Leninism. Belatedly—and somewhat reluctantly—I have become convinced, through a careful consideration of my own experience in what was ostensibly the strongest Trotskyist group in Britain that there is a direct causative connection between the impasse and disintegration of Trotskyism and the method and policies advocated by Trotsky. Conversely, I would say that if Trotsky’s policies and perspectives were right and did correspond to the real development of historical law then the movement he founded would today be counting its members in millions with sections all over the world—principally in the USSR, Eastern Europe and China.
Banda writes that Trotsky’s “claim to Marxist-Leninist authenticity must be doubted.”
History has been a satire on Trotsky’s beliefs and principles. After 60 years only an ignorant fetishist or an idolatrous worshiper of a personality cult would maintain that Trotsky’s analysis of the USSR and his methods of party building, as well as his concept of a world party, are correct and consistent with the tradition and method of Lenin and Marx. Only an empiricist simpleton or charlatan would maintain that the collapse of the Fourth International and the disintegration of its vaunted successor—the ICFI—was an unfortunate episode not connected with an objective process and determined by the operation of the dialectical laws of history and the movement of social forces.
Here we come across just one of the many self-contradictory assertions with which his latest opus abounds. On the one hand, he proclaims that only “empiricist simpletons” can continue to defend the program of Trotskyism. And yet, the reasons which Banda gives for renouncing Trotskyism are examples of the most vulgar empirical thinking: Trotskyism is wrong because the Fourth International does not consist of mass parties which lead millions!
If such superficial criteria are to serve as the basis of political judgments, then it is not simply Trotskyism which must be condemned. After all, Marx predicted the conquest of power by the working class in the advanced centers of capitalism, but—as every petty-bourgeois academic is quick to point out whenever the opportunity arises—the overthrow of the bourgeoisie has been confined to the more backward countries. Nearly 140 years after the publication of the Communist Manifesto, the working classes of the advanced capitalist countries have still to carry out the historic tasks outlined by Marx. Does this fact call into question the “authenticity” of Marxism? Or does it call into question the revolutionary capacities of the proletariat? Banda’s attacks on Trotskyism always reveal themselves to be nothing less than arguments for the repudiation of the perspective of world socialist revolution. Trotsky provided the answer to spineless creatures such as Banda: “Twenty-five years in the scales of history, when it is a question of profoundest changes in economic and cultural systems, weigh less than an hour in the life of man. What good is the individual who, because of empirical failures in the course of an hour or a day, renounces a goal that he set for himself on the basis of the experience and analysis of his entire previous lifetime?”
Proceeding to his main indictment against the Fourth International, Banda asserts:
What all varieties of Trotskyism share in common is an opportunist complacency based on a subjective idealist hatred of material contradictions, which are the motive force of all progress, change and development. Organically and inseparably connected with this is a petit-bourgeois functionary arrogance which refuses to critically evaluate the previous practice of the Fourth International and instead seeks to consecrate wrong practices and false assumptions with dogmatic rationalizations.
The source of these fatal flaws was Trotsky himself, who “failed to grasp the content and essence of the historic changes in the USSR and opened the door for a form of centrist ideology whose hallmark is a profound scepticism and subjectivism.”
In the same breath, however, Banda tells us that he does not intend with this condemnation “to disparage Trotsky’s analysis of events in China, Spain, Germany, the USSR, France and elsewhere, as well as his writings on literature, science and military affairs. He had an encyclopaedic intellect, penetrating vision and the range and subtlety of his thought and power of polemic was unique.”
Now this is truly mutiny on one’s knees. Banda makes no attempt to reconcile his acknowledgment of Trotsky’s “penetrating vision,” even in relation to events inside the USSR, with his allegation that the founder of the Fourth International hated material contradictions and could not understand the central event of his political life, the Russian Revolution!
There is a glaring contradiction between Banda’s denunciation of Trotskyism’s “subjectivism” and the fact that his condemnation of the Fourth International is built upon evaluations which are of an entirely subjective character. Previously, he attributed the collapse of the Fourth International to the presence of various rotten individuals inside the leadership of the movement after the death of Trotsky. Now he discovers that the central culprit was Trotsky himself! The existence of the Fourth International and the generations of revolutionists who have been won to its banner all over the world is attributed to nothing more than Trotsky’s supposed inability “to grasp the content and essence of historic changes in the USSR. …” That real class forces are involved, that in the struggle of Trotskyism against Stalinism is expressed the irreconcilable opposition of the working class to the bureaucracy, is a “minor” detail that Banda does not bother to dwell on.
Attempting to give his banal attack an air of profundity, Banda sets out to diminish Trotsky’s stature as a Marxist theoretician. Piling up one absurdity upon another, Banda, having just declared that he does not question Trotsky’s genius, nevertheless announces that his “amateurish and superficial—yet well intentioned—attempts to enrich the dialectic were somehow confused with the truly scientific and profoundly professional development and concretisation of dialectical materialism carried out by Lenin.”
Perhaps in some future article Banda will indicate how Trotsky, armed with only an “amateurish and superficial” grasp of the dialectic, managed to display a “range and subtlety of thought” that was “unique.” In the meantime, he attempts to substantiate his critique of Trotsky’s theoretical capacities by attacking his last great work, In Defence of Marxism, the series of polemical articles written against the American pragmatists, Max Shachtman and James Burnham. This book, he declares, “provides a clue to his serious and damaging departure from Marxist method in his analysis of the USSR after 1928. …”
Banda makes the astonishing claim that in this book,
Trotsky himself reveals a dismal indifference to the dialectical relationship of Marxist theory embodied in the party and the spontaneous struggles of the working class. This essentially idealist relapse is closely connected to an even more profound problem—the question of establishing the coincidence of dialectics, logic and theory of knowledge (epistemology). Trotsky never once alluded to this problem and was almost entirely concerned with the historical explanation of problems and processes but neglected the logical approach. This was left entirely to Lenin to develop specifically in his Materialism and Empirio-Criticism and Philosophical Notebooks (Volumes 14 and 38 respectively of his collected works).
The devotees of Banda’s attacks on Trotskyism will, no doubt, be thrilled by this gaudy display of theoretical erudition. This is the explanation of the supposed failure of the Fourth International for which they have all been waiting: Trotsky “never once alluded” to the problem of “the coincidence of dialectics, logic and theory of knowledge.” Moreover, he “neglected” the logical approach. Inasmuch as Banda himself never exhibited the slightest interest in problems of dialectical method, we doubt very much that he even understands what all these phrases really mean. At any rate, insofar as he uses these phrases as a club with which to hit Trotsky over the head, he succeeds only in making a fool of himself.
For Marxists, the coincidence of dialectics, logic and the theory of knowledge signifies recognition of the objective material connection between the universal forms of human thought and the most general properties of the material world which it reflects. This “coincidence” was initially discovered by Hegel in the course of his struggle against Kantianism, albeit in an idealist manner. Rejecting the metaphysical separation of the material world and the objective thought-forms through which it is reproduced and assimilated in the human mind, Hegel invested these thought-forms, i.e., the categories and concepts of logic, with an “ontological” significance. That is, starting from his idealist standpoint, which asserted the primacy of thought over matter, Hegel established the identity of the “forms of being” and the “forms of knowing.” As an idealist, Hegel thus asserted that these logical forms were not merely stages in the development of human thought; rather, they were the essential substance of all spheres of material reality.
While negating Hegel’s idealism—which derived the entire development of nature and history from the logical unfolding of a mystical “Absolute Spirit”—Marxism preserved the profound scientific truth that was contained within the mystical presentation and made it the basis for a materialist theory of knowledge which made explicable the whole range of the development of human cognition. The categories of logic are not merely subjective and in-born properties of thought through which an intrinsically chaotic world is rendered comprehensible. Rather, they are the historically-developed forms of the reflection in the minds of social man of the universal properties of matter and of social being.
Or as Lenin put it, based on his materialist reading of Hegel: “Logic is the science not of external forms of thought, but of the laws of development, ‘of all material, natural and spiritual things,’ i.e., of the development of the entire concrete content of the world and of its cognition, i.e., the sum-total, the conclusion of the History of knowledge of the world.”
The understanding of the objective material foundations of logic is, for a Marxist, the necessary premise of conscious theoretical work. To suggest, let alone baldly assert, that the identity of dialectics, logic and the theory of knowledge was beyond Trotsky’s intellectual scope can only mean that Banda, despite all that he has read of Trotsky, is himself so ignorant of method that he cannot even recognize the application of the dialectic in the writings of one of its greatest masters. This explains, in part, his superficial attitude to the works of Trotsky. A theoretically untrained ear recognizes in the music of Beethoven only a succession of beautiful sounds. But an educated musician detects the massive contrapuntal structure upon which the great harmonies are constructed, and from this knowledge draws a richer appreciation of the master’s genius.
Banda is incapable of recognizing the theoretical infrastructure of Trotsky’s writings, and his claim that Trotsky did not devote himself explicitly to problems of Marxist epistemology is the type of ignorant assertion that one would expect of a philistine who passes judgment on things about which he knows nothing. Trotsky’s command of this subject—in his writings on science, literature, military affairs, art and culture—was truly breathtaking. As an examination of Soviet intellectual history between 1921 and 1926 would show, no other figure in the Bolshevik Party, including Lenin, exercised such vast influence. It was by no means accidental that many of the most outstanding Marxists were to be found assembled under the banner of the Left Opposition. In his speeches and writings, Trotsky examined the epistemological implications of the discoveries of Darwin, Mendeleev, Pavlov and Freud. Few Marxists investigated with such profound originality the complex problem of the development of consciousness from the unconscious. Trotsky even devoted an entire article to the examination of the Stalinist bureaucracy from the standpoint of its philosophical method.
Moreover, the very problem of “coincidence,” with which Lenin grappled in the passage quoted above, i.e., the objective significance of logic, occupied the very center of Trotsky’s refutation of Burnham in the book which Banda now attacks, In Defence of Marxism:
We call our dialectic, materialist, since its roots are neither in heaven nor in the depths of our “free will,” but in objective reality, in nature. Consciousness grew out of the unconscious, psychology out of physiology, the organic world out of the inorganic, the solar system out of nebulae. On all the rungs of this ladder of development, the quantitative changes were transformed into qualitative. Our thought, including dialectical thought, is only one of the forms of the expression of changing matter. There is place within this system for neither God, nor Devil, nor immortal soul, nor eternal norms of laws and morals. The dialectic of thinking, having grown out of the dialectic of nature, possesses consequently a thoroughly materialist character.
Further on, Trotsky writes:
All this demonstrates, in passing, that our methods of thought, both formal logic and the dialectic, are not arbitrary constructions of our reason but rather expressions of the actual inter-relationships in nature itself. In this sense, the universe throughout is permeated with “unconscious” dialectics. But nature did not stop there. No little development occurred before nature’s inner relationships were converted into the language of the consciousness of foxes and men, and man was then enabled to generalise these forms of consciousness and transform them into logical (dialectical) categories, thus creating the possibility for probing more deeply into the world about us.
Incidentally, Banda witlessly lauds Burnham’s “savaging of Trotsky’s ‘dialectical foxes,’ ” proving that he does not accept the objective foundations of logic, and thus aligns himself with the most reactionary opponents of materialist dialectics. Burnham, as is well known, became an anticommunist, an advocate of nuclear war against the USSR, and is today one of the ideological patrons of Ronald Reagan.
What about Banda’s claim that Trotsky preoccupied himself solely with the historical, rather than the “logical” approach? Once again, we must point out that Banda does not know what he is talking about. However, he does not deserve all the blame for his clumsy attack on Trotsky’s credentials as a dialectical materialist. Much of his argument, and especially his claim that Trotsky “neglected the logical approach,” is largely based on the views of his longtime mentor, Gerry Healy. Based on a garbled reading of Hegel, Healy concluded that in the formal knowledge of the sequential progression of the categories of dialectical logic is to be found an all-purpose substitute for any concrete examination of the historical process.
According to Healy, logical categories are the distilled essence of all material phenomena, including historical processes. Therefore, in the analysis of contemporary events, a great deal of time can be saved if, rather than tediously examining the historical processes and social forces out of which they developed, one simply dismisses these events as a secondary manifestation of the essential categories. In other words, rather than examine the specific import of a particular concrete development of the class struggle, one simply pronounces it to be the manifestation of movement of “quantity” into “quality,” or one asserts, with a knowing air, that it is the mere “appearance” of an “essence,” or the outer “form” of a more fundamental “content.” This, Healy believed, was the “logical” approach, and that is what he taught Banda.
This method of work has absolutely nothing to do with Marxism, and is related to the Hegelian conception only as caricature. Marx explicitly repudiated such superficial panlogism. Engels, in his celebrated outline of the rational content of the dialectical method developed by Hegel, derided the distortion of the old titan’s method in the hands of his “left” epigones:
The official Hegelian school had assimilated only the most simple devices of the master’s dialectics and applied them to everything and anything, often moreover with ridiculous incompetence. Hegel’s whole heritage was, so far as they were concerned, confined exclusively to a template, by means of which any subject could be knocked into shape, and a set of words and phrases whose only remaining purpose was to turn up conveniently whenever they experienced a lack of ideas and of concrete knowledge. Thus it happened, as a professor at Bonn has said, that these Hegelians knew nothing but could write about everything. These results were, of course, accordingly.
Not understanding Hegel and the significance of his monumental Science of Logic, let alone its materialist reworking by Marx, Healy hit upon the idea that the logical and historical methods of analysis are formal opposites which must be rigidly counterposed. In neither the works of Marx nor Hegel is such a rigid separation of the logical and historical to be found. As Engels explained:
It was the exceptional historical sense underlying Hegel’s manner of reasoning which distinguished it from that of all other philosophers. However abstract and idealist the form employed, yet his evolution of ideas runs always parallel with the evolution of universal history, and the latter was indeed supposed to be only the proof of the former. Although this reversed the actual relation and stood it on its head, yet the real content was invariably incorporated in his philosophy, especially since Hegel—unlike his followers—did not rely on ignorance, but was one of the most erudite thinkers of all time. He was the first to try to demonstrate that there is an evolution, an intrinsic coherence in history, and however strange some things in his philosophy of history may seem to us now, the grandeur of the basic conception is still admirable today, compared both with his predecessors and with those who following him ventured to advance general historical observations. This monumental conception of history pervades the Phänomenologie, Ästhetik and Geschichte der Philosophie, and the material is everywhere set forth historically, in a definite historical context, even if in an abstract distorted manner.
Then, analyzing the procedure employed by Marx in his Critique of Political Economy, Engels clearly elaborates what is meant by the historical and logical methods and establishes their inseparable interconnection:
Even after the determination of the method, the critique of economics could still be arranged in two ways—historically or logically. Since in the course of history, as in its literary reflection, the evolution proceeds by and large from the simplest to the more complex relations, the historical development of political economy constituted a natural clue, which the critique could take as a point of departure, and then the economic categories would appear on the whole in the same order as in the logical exposition. This form seems to have the advantage of greater lucidity, for it traces the actual development, but in fact it would thus become, at most, more popular. History moves often in leaps and bounds and in a zigzag line, and as this would have to be followed throughout, it would mean not only that a considerable amount of material of slight importance would have to be included, but also that the train of thought would frequently have to be interrupted; it would, moreover, be impossible to write the history of economy without that of bourgeois society, and the task would thus become immense, because of the absence of all preliminary studies. The logical method of approach was therefore the only suitable one. This, however, is indeed nothing but the historical method, only stripped of the historical form and diverting chance occurrences. The point where this history begins must also be the starting point of the train of thought, and its further progress will be simply the reflection, in abstract and theoretically consistent form, of the historical course. Though the reflection is corrected, it is corrected in accordance with laws provided by the actual historical course, since each factor can be examined at the stage of development where it reaches its full maturity, its classical form.
In yet another famous passage, this one directed against the ill-fated Eugen Dühring, Engels exposed the vacuity of the type of “logical” method espoused by Healy and Banda:
This is only giving a new twist to the old favourite ideological method, also known as the a priori method, which consists in ascertaining the properties of an object, by logical deduction from the concept of the object, instead of from the object itself. First the concept of the object is fabricated from the object; then the spit is turned round, and the object is measured by its image, the concept. The object is then to conform to the concept, not the concept to the object. With Herr Dühring the simplest elements, the ultimate abstractions he can reach, do service for the concept, which does not alter matters; these simplest elements are at best of a purely conceptual nature. The philosphy of reality, therefore, proves here again to be pure ideology, the deduction of reality not from itself but from a concept.
Dühring had the “privilege” of seeing himself immortalized by Engels. Being of robust constitution, this would-be slayer of Marxism lived until 1921. By the time he died, at the age of eighty-eight, the refutation of Dühring’s “revolution in science” served as the foundation of the theoretical education of millions of workers in countless countries. But best of all, Dühring lived to see Marxism’s ultimate refutation of his stupidities: the October Revolution. For our part, we wish Mr. Banda good health (he should eat less and exercise more) and hope that he lives to see a no less substantial refutation of his attack on Trotskyism.
According to those who crudely counterpose the logical method to the historical process, the structure of Marx’s Capital is developed through a process of purely theoretical deduction, whereby one economic category simply, out of its own abstract content, gives birth to the next. Marx himself explicitly rejected such an interpretation of his work. Reviewing the formulations he employed in the Rough Draft (Grundrisse) which were to become the foundation of his Capital, Marx wrote: “ ‘It will be necessary later, before this question is dropped, to correct the idealist manner of its presentation, which makes it seem as if it were merely a matter of conceptual determinations and of the dialectic of these concepts.’ ”
Rosdolsky, the author of the important interpretive study, The Making of Marx’s “Capital,” commenting on the above passage, further explains: “In other words: the reader should not imagine that economic categories are anything other than the reflections of real relations, or that the logical derivation of these categories could proceed independently of their historical derivation.”
It has been fashionable among all sorts of petty-bourgeois “epistemologists” to interpret Marx’s Capital, especially the crucial opening sections of Volume 1, as simply an exercise in abstract logic, with the movement of the value form developing in a sequence defined entirely by an immanent conceptual dialectic whose structure is unrelated to a real historical process. Such an interpretation renders Marx’s most important work incomprehensible. The demystification of the value form achieved by Marx and the tracing of its development from its genesis (x commodity A = y commodity B) to “the dazzling money-form” could only be achieved through the most profound assimilation of the entire course of human history. Behind each of the equations employed by Marx to trace the evolution of the forms of value lie whole epochs of human history, from savagery to barbarism and civilization. For Marx, each of the economic categories with which he deals “bear the stamp of history.”
Thus, the study of dialectical logic does not provide Marxists with a master key which frees them from the concrete study of either natural or social processes. Rather, it directs that study, enabling Marxists to conquer the material “from within,” so to speak, separate the essential from the inessential, identify the innerconnections which bind the antagonistic elements of each phenomenon into a unified whole, and grasp the concealed laws which govern the transition of one “moment” of development into another.
In the study of historical processes, the theoretical repertoire of the Marxist is not confined to the categories of abstract logic alone, inasmuch as these reflect only the most general properties of the material world. The application of dialectical materialism to the sphere of social relations has resulted in the development of historical materialism, whose categories, both richer and more specific than those of pure logic, are the indispensable tools of the Marxist analysis of society.
To argue that Lenin employed the “logical” method of analysis as opposed to Trotsky’s supposedly “exclusive” concern “with the historical explanation of problems and processes” is another one of Banda’s stupidities. The author of The Revolution Betrayed used exactly the same method as the author of Imperialism. In both works, the working out and enrichment of specific concepts were connected at every point of the analysis with the real historical process. For Lenin, it was a matter of theoretically analyzing the transition from free competition to monopoly capitalism, and the relation of this process to the modern labor movement. Trotsky sought to explain the degeneration of the first workers’ state and the growth of the bureaucratic caste. At the core of the conceptual definitions of both Lenin and Trotsky were not abstract logical forms, but categories which defined and expressed in theoretically consistent form definite production relations and the interaction of real class forces.
The reactionary content of Banda’s attack on Trotsky’s theoretical capacities is exposed when he declares that the real continuity of Lenin’s philosophical work is to be found in the writings of … Mao Tse-tung, who supposedly “saw the importance of Lenin’s work and this is clearly revealed in his works On Practice and On Contradiction.”
It is really obscene to lump together the writings of Lenin with the ghost-written parody of dialectics that appeared under the by-line of Mao Tse-tung. Neither Lenin nor Trotsky utilized pseudo-Marxist verbiage to justify class collaboration with the bourgeoisie, which was the real purpose of On Contradiction, with its discovery of “nonantagonistic contradictions” between the working class and the national bourgeoisie. But let us pass on from Banda’s attempt to trace the development of Marxism from Lenin to Mao and various members of the Soviet Institute for Marxism-Leninism. Attacking In Defence of Marxism, he claims that Trotsky made unpardonable concessions to bourgeois ideology for having written the following:
Scientific socialism is the conscious expression of the unconscious historical process; namely, the instinctive and elemental drive of the proletariat to reconstruct society on communist beginnings. The organic tendencies in the psychology of the workers spring to life with utmost rapidity in the epoch of crises and wars. The discussion has revealed beyond all question a clash in the party between a petty-bourgeois tendency and a proletarian tendency. The petty-bourgeois tendency reveals its confusion in its attempt to reduce the program of the party to the small coin of “concrete” questions. The proletarian tendency on the contrary strives to correlate all the partial questions into theoretical unity. At stake at the present time is not the extent to which individual members of the majority consciously apply the dialectic method. What is important is the fact that the majority as a whole pushes toward the proletarian posing of the questions and by very reason of this tends to assimilate the dialectic which is the “algebra of the revolution.” (Banda’s emphasis.)
“This was Trotsky’s greatest blow against Lenin,” Banda proclaims. “Even Burnham,” he adds, “a trained philosopher, knew better than that and was relentless in his pursuit of this sophistry.”
What was the “sophistry”? It is impermissible, Banda claims, to suggest that the Marxist program articulates the unconscious historical striving of the proletariat as a class. To state that there exists any connection between revolutionary socialism and the “organic tendencies in the psychology of workers” is, if you please, a capitulation to “spontaneity.” Banda, in truth, is not protesting against Trotsky’s formulation in the name of Marxism but in behalf of petty-bourgeois intellectuals who would like to believe that they, not the proletariat, constitute the real social foundation for the development and perpetuation of Marxism. They resent the identification of the historical perspective of Marxism with the aspirations of the working class.
But Trotsky’s observation, written against the petty-bourgeois Burnham and his academically-developed anti-Marxist prejudices, is correct. It in no way contradicts Lenin’s writing on the question of spontaneity. To recognize the domination of bourgeois ideology in the workers’ movement does not negate the unconscious striving of the proletariat for socialism, which the revolutionary movement seeks continuously to develop and make fully conscious. To deny that such a striving exists is to reject the historical implications of the formation of the proletariat and its social organization in large-scale capitalist industry. One could not speak with any conviction of the development, sooner or later, of a socialist movement wherever there exists a substantial working class population. It is to suggest that socialism might find a mass base as easily in the petty bourgeoisie as in the working class, and that the approach of the petty-bourgeois intellectual to socialism is essentially no different from that of a worker.
In What Is To Be Done Lenin states that it is “perfectly true” that “the working class spontaneously gravitates towards socialism.” This explains why “the workers are able to assimilate it so easily. …”
This is the same point made by Trotsky in his reference to “organic tendencies.” As it is clear that Trotsky is speaking only of “the instinctive and elemental drive” of the working class toward socialism, it is an out and out falsification to suggest that Trotsky in any way belittled the decisive significance of the party’s role in the struggle for Marxism in the working class.
It is significant that Banda agrees with Burnham’s haughty dismissal of Trotsky’s observation that “a worker who has gone through the school of the class struggle gains from his own experience an inclination toward dialectical thinking.” Banda quotes at length from Burnham’s outraged response: “Where are these workers, comrade Trotsky?” In 1940, it came as no surprise to the revolutionists inside the Socialist Workers Party that James Burnham, a professor at New York University who frequently admitted that he did not want to devote his life to revolutionary work, did not know that such workers existed or how to find them.
If Banda, along with Burnham, considers Trotsky’s observation to be a catastrophic concession to proletarian spontaneity that provides the answer to all the “mistakes” in his political life, what then does Banda make of the following well-known passage from the writings of Lenin, on the eve of the October Revolution, where, in anecdotal form, he expressed a virtually identical thought:
After the July days, thanks to the extremely solicitous attention with which the Kerensky government honoured me, I was obliged to go underground. Of course, it was the workers who sheltered people like us. In a small working-class house in a remote working-class suburb of Petrograd, dinner is being served. The hostess puts bread on the table. The host says: “Look what fine bread. They dare not give us bad bread now. And we had almost given up even thinking that we’d ever get good bread in Petrograd again.”
I was amazed at this class appraisal of the July days. My thoughts had been revolving around the political significance of those events, weighing the role they played in the general course of events, analysing the situation that caused this zigzag in history and the situation it would create, and how we ought to change our slogans and alter our Party apparatus to adapt it to the changed situation. As for bread, I, who had not known want, did not give it a thought. I took the bread for granted, as a by-product of the writer’s work, as it were. The mind approaches the foundation of everything, the class struggle for bread, through political analysis that follows an extremely complicated and devious path.
This member of the oppressed class, however, even though one of the well-paid and quite intelligent workers, takes the bull by the horns with that astonishing simplicity and straightforwardness, with that firm determination and amazing clarity of outlook from which we intellectuals are as remote as the stars in the sky. The whole world is divided into two camps: “us,” the working people, and “them,” the exploiters. Not a shadow of embarrassment over what had taken place; it was just one of the battles in the long struggle between labour and capital. When you fell trees, chips fly.
“What a painful thing is this ‘exceptionally complicated situation’ created by the revolution,” that’s how the bourgeois intellectual thinks and feels.
“We squeezed ‘them’ a bit; ‘they’ won’t dare to lord it over us as they did before. We’ll squeeze again—and chuck them out altogether,” that’s how the worker thinks and feels.
And of what is this story an illustration, if not the workers’ inclination toward dialectical thinking and the organic socialist tendencies in their psychology?
David North, “Banda Group Embraces Stalinism,” Fourth International, vol. 14, no. 1, March 1987, p. 70.
Leon Trotsky, In Defence of Marxism (London: New Park Publications, 1971), p. 18.
V.I. Lenin, Collected Works, vol. 38 (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1972), pp. 92–93.
Trotsky, In Defence of Marxism, p. 66.
Ibid., pp. 106–107.
Karl Marx, A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1977), p. 222.
Ibid., p. 224.
Ibid., p. 225.
Frederick Engels, Anti-Dühring (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975), p. 116.
Roman Rosdolsky, The Making of Marx’s “Capital” (London: Pluto Press, 1977), p. 114.
Ibid., pp. 114–115.
V.I. Lenin, What Is To Be Done? (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1978), p. 42.
Trotsky, In Defence of Marxism, p. 58.
V.I. Lenin, Collected Works, vol. 26 (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1977), pp. 120–121.