trotsky: radical in a country of last things

While in prison in awaiting trial, and a new deportation and a new escape abroad, Trotsky in 1905 wrote a pamphlet outlining a radical, and to some heretical, innovation in Marxist doctrine: the theory of the Permanent Revolution, which became the cornerstone of Trotskyism. Briefly summarized, the theory stipulated that thought Russia was industrially backward, the rather small proletariat could and ought to impose its leadership on the peasant majority and, because of the proletariat’s dominant role the revolution would finally turn into a socialist one, perhaps skipping over the bourgeois-democratic phase predicted by most orthodox Marxists at the time.

---The use of stock options, huge management greed by top executives, is one of the scandals of the last decade. This has been accompanied by massive downsizing and restructuring and what is euphemistically called 'financial engineering'. When challenged about the long-term consequences of their financial gangsterism a representative of the new breed of capitalist executives declared to Kennedy: 'Why... should I care, I'll be long gone before anyone finds out'. And this financial plundering is not restricted to executives but goes to the heart of the methods of modern monopoly capitalism. For instance, General Electric is one of the biggest manufacturing firms in the US. Yet $30bn has been used by this company in 'share buy-backs'. The parasitism of capitalism, Kennedy believes, is deep-rooted. What is his solution? "In an ideal world, we'd correct the abuses through regulation. Unfortunately, I don't think anything less than a major crash will make people step back and look clearly at where it's all gone wrong". ---Read More: image:

Trotsky returning to Russia in 1905 and again in 1917 seems reminiscent of Paul Auster’s novella In A Country of Last  Things.The book is centered on  a dystopian future New York City, but it could easily be Trotsky’s world. The protagonist goes into a city crumbling under systematic disorder and corruption. There is no industry and the principal employment is picking through trash to look for something to resell. In this crazed hysteria destitution is supreme and everyone is a con, crook and a swindler. Also,  the weather is arctic cold, and there appears to be no respite.

Auster’s world is the ultimate  place of last things,a cemetery as its denizens  inexorably grind out the balance of the leftovers. Of course, nothing lasts very long because someone is always plotting and willing to swipe it. In this city, objects, like thoughts and ideas are only around as long as you you can keep watch them.

Also, the Russian proletariat would not be able to remain long in power without the massive support of the European proletariat, thus implying revolution in Europe and by throwing Russia’s power into the scales of class struggle abroad, they could initiate a successful world-wide socialist revolution or series of revolutions. This idea in sum, was a kind of coup d’etat of a minority establishing dictatorial powers ; a move way ahead of Lenin’s. The Permanent Revolution eventually became in Stalin’s eyes his adversary’s major heresy. Perhaps it was the only point of pure doctrine in dispute between him and Trotsky in regard to which the cynical Georgian had any deep convictions.

---Taaffe:Moreover, one of the paradoxes of this society, again analysed by Trotsky, is the greater the technological advance the greater the intensification of work for the working class, the bigger the exploitation, the greater the stress, suffering and depression, which is a world malady at the present time. Read More:

But as all the machinations were turning. Who was minding the store? There was such faith in Marxist economic assumptions, a self-induced gullibility, that its specifics were rarely if ever questioned. In exporting the revolution , he was asking people to buy into a dream, one filled with overoptimistic expectations and filled with misconceptions about capitalism:

In Veblen’s view, Marx was quite wrong to regard the “reactionary” nature of the upper classes as a consequence of the threat posed to its material interests. It is, on the contrary, almost entirely “spiritual”: The opposition of the [upper] class to changes in the cultural scheme is instinctive, and does not rest primarily on an interested calculation of material advantages; it is an instinctive revulsion at any departure from the accepted way of doing and of looking at things – a revulsion common to all men and only to be overcome by stress of circumstances. All change in habits of life and of thought is irksome. The difference in this respect between the wealthy and the common run of mankind lies not so much in the motive which prompts to conservatism as in the degree of exposure to the economic forces that urge a change (1899, 199).Read More:

---All of this is laid out in the first volume of Trotsky’s How the Revolution Armed from 1919. And since any number of the Bush Administration’s Neocon advisors are recovering Trotskyites (not to mention Condoleezza Rice, who wrote her thesis on this subject), I’m sure there are no shortage of cadres familiar with Trotsky’s plans for controlling the military hanging around the White House.---Read More:

Trotsky’s  Permanent Revolution gradually merged with his criticisms of the Soviet State bureaucracy and his protests against the stifling of internal democracy within the Communist party; together they would lay the foundations for his almost equally metaphysical dogma of the Revolution Betrayed. Stalinism as he finally came to view it, was not a personal aberration but the epitome of those very “bureaucratic deformations” inevitably generated by the victory of Socialism in One Country-Stalin’s vision- over the Permanent Revolution. Trotsky could not foresee the emergence of Stalinism when he formulated his theory in 1906. That any kind of a dictatorship tends sooner or later to degenerate into a personal despotism seems never to have occurred to him.

---The country of last things is a hopeless place where commercial manufacture and human reproduction have finished. What is left is a grim arena where matter is only transformed, whether it be human waste and corpses i

energy, or broken refuse, collected by scavengers and turned into useful merchandise. No children are born, for to have children you need money, health and optimism. These are commodities that have all but ceased to exist in the setting of Paul Auster's novel.---Read More: image:

Heath:On the contrary, Veblen shared with both Marx and Freud the desire to refrain from making simple value judgments. Yet at the same time, he sought to avoid the pitfall that both Marx and Freud fell into, viz. relying upon elaborate theoretical constructions in lieu of moral claims (a strategy that violates one of the most fundamental rules of argument, viz. that one cannot derive plausible conclusions – e.g. workers are badly treated, people are sexually repressed – from anything that is intrinsically less plausible – e.g. Hegelian dialectics, the struggle of Eros and Thanatos).Read More:

---In the decimated city, muggings are commonplace, food is prohibitively expensive, and there is no permanence of tenancy, neither through rent nor ownership. It is not a place one can easily leave, due to the restrictive taxes levied for doing so. Governments (whose main purposes are to collect human waste and the dead into dust carts) change so often it is hard to know who is in power, and it is clear that there is no democratic process in action.--- Read More: image:

Joseph Heath:There is no question that class solidarity was in many cases sufficient to overcome these collective action problems. But Marx had tended to assume that class consciousness is all that would be required. He assumed that workers were failing to engage in revolutionary agitation because they failed to see where there true interests lay. Thus he relied upon the theory of ideology in order to explain their inaction. The assumption throughout was that when workers came to see where their true interests lay, they would take to the streets – without any need for supplementary motivation. Thus theorists in the Marxist tradition spent an inordinate amount of time worrying about the consciousness of the proletariat, and the pernicious effects of ideology, while almost completely ignoring the concrete incentives that workers faced. Read More:
Steffan Hamilton: Death, as well as the discontinuation of reproductive life, forms one of the major themes in Country of Last Things, and in a world where life is insufferable, the wish to die spawns a considerable industry. There are a thousand ways a person can buy their death, from the euthanasia clinics, which offer a last spree of hedonism before the injection is administered, to the cheaper assassination clubs, whereby the participant joins a society that guarantees to contract his or her murder. One of the pivotal scenes in the book sees Anna lured into a slaughter where the living are murdered and cut into pieces for sale as food. This, Auster has based on his reading of happenings in Leningrad during the siege. That she escapes from this shocking ordeal is incredible, though because of the incident she loses her lover Samuel Farr, the journalist who has been sent out to replace her brother, and the man she falls deeply in love with after leaving Isabel and her deranged husband.

Sergei Eisenstein. October. 1928.---Another reason why the film was less successful than its director had envisaged was because he was obliged to make some dramatic cuts before it could be accepted by his paymasters. In the original film, Leon Trotsky (the most important figure in the original Communist Party after Vladimir Lenin), was a significant presence. In 1927, Trotsky fell out with the Stalinist leadership and was expelled from the Party. (He was driven out of the Soviet Union the following year and, after a decade in which he fervently opposed Stalinism, he was assassinated, most probably under Stalin’s orders, in 1940). Consequently, all the sequences in which Trotsky appeared had to be excised from the film, which resulted in about a quarter of the content being lost. This no doubt contributed to the film’s lack of coherence and its rather jumpy narrative construction.---Read More: image:

… Readers of holocaust biography might be reminded of the great love and stoicism that writers like Primo Levi impart.Read More:

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