Tuesday, December 12, 2006

A Case of the Trots

As i have stated before , I am no intellectual theoretician but I do grow wearisome of those who do claim to be and fall short of expectations . Latest , I have come across is Hillel Ticktin , of Glasgow University , worldly author , editor of Critique, and sometime writer for the Communist Party of Great Britain . Who am I to question such a man ? But I will in my feeble way .

Hillel Ticktin has an article in CPGB’s Weekly Worker , Seeds of a New Society , and I was struck by just how actually mundane it was but that’s probably because I am no academic like he and missed its pertinent points . Or , on the other hand , its because much of my socialist education has been from the SPGB so that there was little in it that I found particularly original or insightful that I have not read before . I also have a natural disdain for camouflaging simple ideas with verbose explanations or complicated language .

The article touches on such subjects as mentioned on this blog as Economic Calculation and Consciousness .

I was immediately minded by this statement of Ticktin's .

"…socialism can only come into existence on a world scale - it must be international and arrive “all at once”. Capitalism is a world system, and bits of it cannot be removed."

That is something straight out of any SPGB pamphlet .

Of course , a Trotskyist realises that "socialism in one country" is impossible. But, although Trotsky did proclaim this , it didn't mean that he thought nothing could be done in one country and that if a vanguard political party took power and was ruthless and determined enough , it could, he argued, establish a "Workers State". ( Theory of Permanent Revolution) .We of the SPGB have been arguing for decades against the Trotskyist theories of Workers State , Degenerated Workers State , or Bureaucratic Collective State or whatever variant of half-way house they endeavour to use to justify the Bolshevik Coup d'Etat and apologise for its failure .

I was then surprised when I later read Tickin stating :

"The fundamental aspect of a communist or socialist society (I make no distinction between the two) is that for the first time a society is planned by the associated producers themselves."

I’m pleased that Hillel doesn’t make a distinction between the two and now accepts the long held position of the SPGB that has always been opposed by the Left that communism and socialism are synonyms and were used as such by Marx and Engels . Another first for an avowed Trotskyite to admit . Of course , Ticktin seems partial to stating this as he says elsewhere

"Now it is true that the distinction between socialism and communism was actually made and employed by Lenin, Trotsky and so forth. But they put inverted commas around the word ‘socialism’: ie, so-called socialism."

Oh , did they now ?

But whats this ? The CPGB own website on which Ticktin writes ,

" Socialism is the first stage of the worldwide transition to communism "

We didn't need to go very far to find a distinction being made between socialism and communism , did we , and , nope , I can’t see any inverted commas there being used .

Ticktin finds himself in agreement on many things that the SPGB has been asserting as part of its party-case for many years as self-evident . Such as :

"The potentiality for abundance comes into existence within capitalism. Without such a potentiality there would be very great difficulty in ever going over to socialism, because there can be no scarcity in a socialist society…We know there is potential abundance today."

Yup …, sufficient for a society to provide for all according to their needs .

It seems that Ticktin accepts the Von Mises case against socialism that economic calulation is not possible , or at least Ticktin accepts that the "market-socialist” critics have been unable to answer Von Mise . But perhaps , Ticktin is seemingly unaware of the vigourous Non-Market Socialist rebuttal of Von Mise and his Economic Calculation .
That, naturally , brings me to that vast void inside Trotskyism . Where is the Trotskyist programme for the abolition of wages and money and the introduction of free access . I read plenty of their minimum transitional demands but rarely do I ever find the maximum programme .

His Weekly Worker article goes on to discuss aspects of consciousness . and once again it appears as if Ticktin has to repeat old truths . The SPGB has always been the party that has expounded the idea that there were now only two classes in society ( in industrialised countries , that is ) and Ticktin takes on the mantle of the SPGB and discards his cloak of Bolshevism with the analysis that there no longer is a middle class who have now become subject to increasingly proletarianisation .

"I would never have predicted that university lecturers would become workers, but that is what is happening. "

Ticktin on consciousness-----

" the movement for socialism cannot be entirely spontaneous.
There has to be an understanding of the change, which implies that there has to be a political party, expressing the consciousness of the working class, which actively intervenes in that change…Despite this, it is quite clear that there can be no change of system unless the working class actually takes power and creates a new mode of production ."

Well, we won't argue with that but we will look at history and note that the requirement is a political party OF the working class and not an organisation that substitutes itself FOR the working class . Yet again , I willl refer you to this article where The Socialist Party have made it clear that it is much more than just interpreting the world but about the need to take concerted political action to change it .

Ticktin in the article descibes the internal contradictions and conflicts that Capitalism throws up as it continually evolves and develops . The corruptions of Capitalism. Monopolies ...joint-stock companies ...government intervention ...and what he describes as proto or pseudo-socialism , that is , state ownership and nationalisation .
Some of those structures he states will form the seeds of the new society - socialism . Oh , yes , as he says , Engels was talking all about that . Simply put , Capitalism gives birth to Socialism . Socialism springs forth from Capitalism . Woweeee...What a revelation that is . Yes indeed , as many members of the SPGB have been saying for years ...the true transitional stage towards socialism/communism is indeed capitalism .

But , Hillel , please not lets get too carried away with what you describe as capitalististic decay and malfunction .

There is nothing deterministic about the collapse of capitalism simply because it created socialised production methods yet still cannot fulfil society's needs . It can and will stagger on from one crisis to another until the working class accept the alternative and actively work towards it. Hiding that objective behind a screen of theoretical verbiage doesn't help in the least bit .

( Drat , re-reading this and I'm guilty of the same transgression too , darn and damn it . Thank god I qualified this blog by saying it's rambling and rantings )


Duncan Money said...

So... is Ticktin joining the SPGB?

If not, perhaps you should invite him too. This post would condensce down nicely into a letter to 'Weekly Worker'.

I'm serious it would be a good move for the SPGB to get a figure like that onboard, providing he passes the entrance exam.

ajohnstone said...

If he does wish to join , he will require to jettison his Bolshevik baggage , which in my very humble opinion based on limited reading he is disingenuously busily doing by re-defining Lenin and Trotsky .
But to be fair to Ticktin ,i never credited him properly nor elaborated fully on all he wrote.

Duncan Money said...

Just read your letter in Weekly Worker, nicely done.

I'd recommend Ticktin's article this week as well, http://www.cpgb.org.uk/worker/653/ticktin.htm, if you haven't already read it:

"There has to be a genuine intellectual shift whereby most people conceive of the superiority of socialism."

Surely it's only a matter of time before SPGB HQ get a membership application.

ajohnstone said...

Thanks for passing that on and indeed i followed the lead of the quote you highlighted
Ticktin - "There has to be a genuine intellectual shift whereby most people conceive of the superiority of socialism."

Lenin - “ If Socialism can only be realised when the intellectual development of all the people permits it then we shall not see Socialism for at least five hundred years”

ajohnstone said...

Oops , meant the lead of firing off another letter to Weekly Worker

Tom said...

The CPGB can be called many things but trots or tortskyist they are not. They themselves are eager to explain why this is the case in many or their articles. So call them what you want but don't call them trots!

ajohnstone said...

Tom , i will bow to your knowledge of the politics and history of the CPGB which certainly has been a ideological hop-scotch of an evolution over the years , so i think i can be excused for assuming tha there present position was such .
As for Hillel , i do believe that he is a Trotskyite and my blog comments were aimed specifically at his article .