Date:    Tue, 24 Jun 1997 23:23:55 -0700
To:      marxism-international@jefferson.village.Virginia.EDU
From:    Ben Seattle 
Subject: Re: M-I: (POF-7) A short reply to Louis Proyect

On the free flow of information:

Louis Proyect:

>One of the things that I observed in the decline of the SWP in the 1970s
>was its inability to permit the free flow of information that typifies the
>Internet. I was struck by the contrast between the sort of free information
>flow I saw at Goldman-Sachs using PROFS, an IBM mainframe electronic mail
>system, and the party leadership's sclerotic control of every piece of mail
>that members were exchanging in the party back then. Private correspondence
>over disputed matters was strictly forbidden. When large numbers of cadre
>were expelled in the early 1980s, the trial bodies amassed evidence of such
>correspondence. Can you imagine what fears would have gripped the party
>tops during that period if the Internet had been commonly available as it
>is now?


Louis is discussing something of very great importance: the decisive role
of the internal flow of information within communist organization.  His
observations on the striking contrast between (a) how a modern corporation
increases productivity via e-mail and (b) his experiences in the SWP--are
extremely valuable.  I believe that it would be very helpful if other list
members contribute any experiences (both good and bad) they may have along
these lines.

Trotsky bashing ?

Louis Proyect:

>I think Ben is on the threshold of making some real breakthroughs on the
>organizational question. I would only caution him to ease up on the
>Trotsky-bashing. When he refers to Trotsky as a "clown", he is expressing
>prejudicial attitudes from Stalinist sources. Perhaps, he is also judging
>Trotsky on the basis of the performance of our list Trotskyists, who *are*
>clowns. But Trotsky deserves better.

Yes it would seem that there may be certain Trotskyists on M-I who act like
clowns, sectarians etc.  What is important however, for everyone to
recognize, is that those Trotskyists on this list do not have some kind of
monopoly on buffoonery.  I believe I touched on this recently.

I hope it is clear to list readers that I was referring to Trotsky's
conduct in the period leading to the final break between the Bolsheviks and
the Mensheviks.  In my view, it is quite clear that--in this
period--Trotsky did ignore and attempt to cover up the reasons for (and the
nature of) the polarization between the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks--and prop
himself up as "non-factional"--in a way that had comic elements.

>Trotsky was wrong on the organization question, but so was Rosa Luxemburg.
>Yet they are two of the greatest Marxist theoreticians of the 20th century.
>When you are trying to piece together a history of the 20th century class
>struggle, it is imperative to read and understand Trotsky. His analysis of
>fascism stands up, as does his critique of Thermidor in the USSR.
>Unfortunately, his movement has turned his writings into religious
>scripture but this has been true of Marx and Lenin as well.

To make this short--I will simply say that some of Trotsky's views probably
stand up more than others and I do not necessarily consider myself
competent to say which of them stand up and which do not.  At one time I
would have disagreed most vehemently with the analysis of Thermidor.  Now
it is clear that, on this at least, Trotsky was either correct or at least
in the ballpark.  I think that Trotsky attempted to sort out a number of
fundamental issues as best he could--in a very confusing period for the
communist movement.

My overall general assessment of this period is that there was no overall
and clear guiding light.  The last clear, bright light expired in 1923.  I
do have great respect and admiration for Mao Tsetung--but from what I have
been able to put together--he was very inconsistent.  I think the entire
international communist movement has been in a period of great confusion
since the death of Lenin.  But I think the period of great confusion will
be coming to a close.  The internet will be a great help.  We will use it
(and discussion groups such as this) to assist ourselves in overcoming our
incredible ignorance and learning (and changing) the truth about ourselves
and the world.


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