Sadly Eric Lee’s response to my review of his book on Georgia (Solidarity 454, 15 November) avoids the substance of my critique.
Lee’s book argues that the Georgian Menshevik strategy between 1917 and 1921 was better than the Bolsheviks in Russia. Yet in Marxist terms, Bolshevik politics were far superior:
The Bolshevik-led Russian workers made a socialist revolution in October 1917; the Georgian Mensheviks did not lead a revolution.
The Bolshevik regime that resulted in Russia was a workers’ government; the Georgian Mensheviks led a bourgeois government.
The Bolshevik government stopped Russia’s involvement in the First World War; the Georgian Mensheviks supported the war and its continuation.
The Bolshevik government tried to implement national self-determination; the Georgian Mensheviks persecuted national minorities.
The Bolsheviks fought a civil war against the imperialist powers and the White counter-revolution; the Georgian Mensheviks claimed to be neutral, while at times aiding the ex-tsarist generals.
The Georgian Mensheviks in power could have chosen to ally with the workers’ government in Russia. Instead they chose to work with Germany and then Britain, as well as cooperate with General Denikin.
Lee equates Menshevism – the idea that “an impoverished, backward society cannot skip historical stages” – with Marxism.
Yet the root of Marxism is working class self-emancipation – that the workers themselves can abolish capitalism and create a socialist society. For Eric Lee, “Marxism” appears to be an historical watchtower from which to adjudicate between big power lesser evils.
Today capitalism is massively more advanced. States and classes across the globe have experienced what Trotsky called “combined” development, skipping stages rather than simply following the same path as Western Europe. The waged working class today is billions-strong. The material conditions for socialism are even more developed than a century ago.
The Marxism of Lenin and Trotsky was and is about the working class taking power, in its own interests, to create its own democratic state and to develop new, socialist relations of production. The AWL does not mechanically transpose strategy and tactics from 1917 onto today’s conditions – our Bolshevik first duty is to assess today’s reality and today’s conditions.
But we take a great deal from the methodology and approach of the Bolsheviks, because they did what no other party has done since – they led the workers to power.