Wouldn't be impressed

A failure of definition

Jack Conrad argues that the left is crippled by its fixation on economic struggles and the downplaying of high politics

No-one can discredit Marxism as long we do not discredit ourselves. A maxim that surely applies to the confusion still reigning over Brexit and the European Union.

As the reader well knows, one ill-assorted pack of the left tailed behind the ‘leave’ campaign headed by Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and Nigel Farage (eg, the Morning Star’s Communist Party of Britain, the Socialist Workers Party, Socialist Party in England and Wales, Counterfire and the New Communist Party). Another ill-assorted pack of the left tailed behind David Cameron’s Stronger in Europe. And, having seen the most inept Tory prime minister in 50 years suffer a disastrous defeat, albeit by a narrow margin, the same left now clutches at the People’s Vote and its call for a second referendum (eg, Alliance for Workers’ Liberty, Socialist Resistance and Left Unity).

Naturally, the leftwing Brexiteers - the so-called Lexiteers - paint the referendum result as delivering a devastating body blow against the Tories, which, totally unconvincingly, can now end “neoliberal integration” and “restore” [sic] democracy and popular sovereignty.1 The politics of hopeless hope. Meanwhile, the leftwing advocates of a second referendum espouse the politics of fear. Fear that Brexit will “wreck the British economy”; fear that a Singaporean Britain “will commit us to a series of long-term trade deals which will enforce American-style deregulation”; fear that “the rights, freedoms and protections currently enshrined in EU law” will be undermined.2

What neither the Lexiteers nor the left ‘remainers’ understand, teach, let alone programmatically champion, is the principle of working class political independence, the struggle for extreme democracy and bringing the European Union under the rule of the working class. Instead, on the one hand, there is collaboration with this or that fraction of the bourgeoisie and, on the other hand, a strategic reliance on trade unionism and economic strikes.

Indeed, the endless conflict between worker and boss, crucially at the ‘point of production’, has long been proclaimed to be the ‘primal battleground of class struggle’ by wide swathes of the left. Here is the mainspring of the class struggle, here is their ideal habitat, here is what distinguishes them from concerned liberals, academic socialists, enlightened reformers and each and every fraction of the bourgeoisie. Consequently, as a matter of common sense, the principal task of socialists is seen as promoting strikes and, stage by stage, providing them with an ever more political character. Eg, first a strike over pay and conditions, then strikes by others with similar grievances, then solidarity strikes, finally a general strike which challenges both employers and the government. Supposedly the working class then stands on the threshold of state power.

Inevitably, given such an outlook, economic strikes are deemed to be far more important than building a mass Communist Party, communist electoral activity, the fight to transform the Labour Party, demands for a federal republic, a people’s militia and the ideological struggle to defeat the influence of social-imperialism, bureaucratic centralism and left nationalism in our movement.


Marxism has a well established category for this approach - economism. A term, of course, originally coined in pre-revolutionary Russia. Naturally, having a little history, modern-day economists have no wish to call their economism, economism. After all, we all know that, in the name of orthodox social democracy, Iskra - the celebrated paper edited by Vladimir Lenin, Jules Martov, Alexander Potresov, Georgi Plekhanov, Pavel Axelrod and Vera Zasulich - took on the foremost advocates of economism grouped around the rival publication Rabochaya Mysl; moreover, Lenin and the Bolshevik leadership subsequently fought anything that smacked of, hinted at or tended towards economism.

Hence, in our tradition, economism is considered a ‘bad thing’. Therefore, nowadays, economists refuse to admit their economism, refuse to examine their economism, refuse to treat their economism - a complacency justified, excused, at least to their own satisfaction, by defining economism in a selective, pinched and misleading fashion.

Five representative samples:

1. According to Tony Cliff, the founder-leader of the SWP, economism means that “Socialists should limit their agitation to purely economic issues: first to the industrial plant, then to inter-plant demands, and so on.” Economists believed that from “narrow economic agitation” workers would learn, “through experience of the struggle itself, the need for politics, without the need for socialists to carry out agitation on the general political and social issues facing the Russian people as a whole.”3

2. Next an ‘official communist’ dictionary definition: “Its proponents wanted to limit the tasks of the working class movement to economic struggle (improving labour conditions, higher wages, etc). They held that political struggle should be waged by the liberal bourgeoisie alone.”4

3. Bob Jenkins, can speak for the Trotskyism of the Ernest Mandel variety: economism is “orientating to daily trade union struggles” and this “leads them to underestimate the important new political issues and movements unless they are to be found in the unions”.5

4. Then there is the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty’s Pete Radcliff. He supplies a definition from the camp of social-imperialism: “‘Economism’ was the term Lenin used to describe the politics and approach of revolutionaries who exclude themselves from the political struggle ... and merely concentrated on trade union agitation.”6

5. Last, but not least, there is Jim Creegan, a Trotskyist friend of the CPGB based in New York. The “economism” that Lenin decried “consisted in the belief that socialists need do no more than follow and support the spontaneous trade union activity of the working class in its struggle with employers in order to arrive at socialism”.7

Yes, selective, pinched and misleading.

Even against the “old economism” of the 1890s Lenin fielded the term in the “broad sense”.8 According to Lenin, the principal feature of economism is the tendency to lag behind the spontaneous movement and to downplay or belittle the centrality of democracy. So, there is narrow economism and broad economism. Narrow economism might be described as the politics of trade unionism or strikism. But broad economism shuns, neglects, veers away from the Marxist conception of politics. Either way, Russian economism circa 1900 did not ignore politics, “nor was it part of the orthodox case to argue that it did so”.9

The Rabochaya Mysl economists declared themselves to be mightily impressed by Eduard Bernstein’s Evolutionary socialism, questioned Iskra’s opposition to acts of individual terrorism and presented a “kind of gradualist socialist pluralism”. Their long-term strategic proposition was that, as the bourgeoisie gradually made encroachments on the prerogatives of the autocracy, the workers would, in due course, themselves gradually “assume self-governing functions in a democratic state”.10

We see the same shunning, neglect and veering away from the Marxist conception of politics today. So-called Marxists - ie, economists of the broad kind - follow, flatter, even staff, all manner of political organisations, campaigns and causes: CND pacifism, George Galloway’s Respect, Stand Up To Racism, greenism, feminism, black separatism, left Scottish nationalism, etc. Hence economists by no means limit themselves to “purely economic issues”. Rather, economism is a variety of opportunism which relies on spontaneity and downplays consciousness.

Unsurprisingly, all too many leftwing personalities, groups and ‘parties’ suffer from a collective amnesia, when it comes to the broad definition of economism. What goes for those outside the Labour Party goes for those inside the Labour Party. Despite numerous references to Marxism, Lenin, Bolshevism and the October revolution, Socialist Worker, The Socialist, the Morning Star, Labour Briefing, The Clarion and Red Flag - all of them downplay the centrality of democracy. No wonder organised Marxism is widely seen as narrow-minded, exhausted, discredited.


Let us examine economism in Russia in a bit more detail.

Its growth from 1894 onwards was aided by five main factors.

1. Firstly, in the early stages of their movement, Marxists in Russia “restricted themselves merely to work in propaganda circles”. When they took up the work of agitation amongst the masses, they were “not always able” to restrain themselves “from going to the other extreme”. Their leaflets fearlessly exposed the terrible factory conditions in the industrial cities and thereby aroused a certain admiration from amongst workers. But they did little more than that.

2. Secondly, the early Marxists were struggling against the Narodnik socialists, who understood politics as activity isolated from the masses and often resorted to terroristic conspiracies. Alexander II was blown up by a Narodnik bomb in March 1881. Yet, in rejecting this sort of politics, the early Marxists often “went to the extreme of pushing politics entirely into the background”.

3. Thirdly, in conditions of the small circles of workers and revolutionaries, the early Marxists “did not devote sufficient attention to the necessity of organising a revolutionary party, which would combine all the activities of the local groups and make it possible to organise the revolutionary work on correct lines”.11

4. Fourthly, there was the arrest and exile of Lenin, Martov and other theoretically talented comrades in December 1897, and the success the new, younger, generation of leaders enjoyed in influencing mass strikes.

5. Fifthly, on top of all that, as already mentioned, there was the publication of Bernstein’s Evolutionary socialism (1899). Anticipating the bourgeoisification of the western labour movement, the basic thesis of Bernstein’s book - much acclaimed in its day by left academics and liberals alike - was that national capitalism, through the growing organisation of the productive forces, was inexorably widening the democratic space in society and gradually leading to its transformation into a socialism from above.

Wars, crises and violent revolutions were dismissed as phenomena of a bygone age. Bernstein also proposed that the Social Democratic Party in Germany would greatly strengthen itself by discarding antiquated notions and phraseology: eg, ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ and ‘class war’. Instead it should concentrate on the real business at hand: parliamentary elections and the day-to-day improvement of the overall condition of the working class.

Bernstein included the infamous statement: “the final aim of socialism” is “nothing”; it is the movement itself which “is everything”.12 By the “movement” he meant the existing institutions, elected representatives and routine economic struggles of the working class; not historically accumulated theory, fighting capacity and revolutionary consciousness. As to the “final aim” being “nothing”, that, he claimed, referred not so much to socialism itself: rather “indifference” to “the form of the final arrangement of things”.13 Be that as it may, Bernstein’s revisionism admirably suited the economists in Russia.

Despite their popularity with some groups of workers, the problem with the economists - not least those grouped around Rabochaya Mysl - was that they attempted to elevate the one-sidedness of the movement into a “special theory”, which they bolstered with reference to the “fashionable” Bernsteinism and the “fashionable” refutations of Marxism - in reality old bourgeois ideas dressed in new packaging. The danger of economism was that the necessary unity between the working class and the struggle for democracy would be weakened. By contrast, Lenin declared that the “most urgent” task of Marxists in Russia is “to strengthen that connection” in order to quickly bring about the overthrow of the “autocratic government”.14

The economists considered the “final aim” of replacing tsarism with a democratic republic as having no immediate practical significance. It was for the comparatively distant future. The democratic republic would be achieved by the grandchildren, not the children, of the present generation. Only the liberal bourgeoisie and intelligentsia were interested in such faraway matters. Not the workers. Hence there was no leverage in anti-tsarist agitation. But helping to organise in the workplace, printing leaflets, sponsoring collections, providing sympathetic lawyers - all that promised “palpable results”.

Consequently, the economists argued, in true tailist fashion, that the job of the workers’ party, when eventually formed, was to assist workers in their efforts to build trade unions and give their demands a ‘socialist coloration’. Trade unionism supposedly has an inexorable socialist logic. With accumulated experience of strikes, stronger organisation and steadily improved conditions, workers gain confidence and thereby become conscious “of the possibility and necessity of socialism”.

Lenin agreed with Karl Kautsky: this was “absolutely untrue”.15 It is Marxism, not the economic struggle, which brings the working class movement consciousness of its position in society and its historic tasks. Marxism, of course, has its roots in the conditions of capitalist exploitation and emerges in the struggle against capitalist exploitation. But, while Marxism and the class struggle arise side by side, they are hardly the same thing. Marxism requires “profound scientific knowledge”: eg, dialectics, historical materialism and political economy. There would be no need for Marxism if socialist consciousness arose spontaneously through trade unionism and the economic struggle.

Lenin and his comrades launched a ferocious assault on the economists and joined in the international campaign opposing Bernsteinism. In the hands of the economists Marxism was being “narrowed down” and the attempt was being made to turn the party of revolution into a party of reform. Lenin warned that “the working class movement” is in danger of “being sundered from socialism”. Yes, the workers are being “helped to carry on the economic struggle”, but “nothing, or next to nothing, is done to explain to them the socialist aims and political tasks of the movement as a whole”. And self-fulfillingly the economists were beginning to talk “more and more” about the struggle against the tsarist government having to be “carried on entirely by the intelligentsia, because the workers confine themselves to the economic struggle”.16

Lenin defined the party as the living combination of the working class movement and the aim of socialism. The party should therefore not merely serve the working class movement at its various stages. No, the party had to constantly strive to represent the interests of the working class movement as a whole. In other words, make propaganda about its ultimate aims and meanwhile ensure its political and ideological independence. Without being won to the leadership provided by the Marxist party, the working class movement becomes “petty and inevitably bourgeois”. Hence, trade unionism as trade unionism “means the ideological enslavement of the workers by the bourgeoisie”.17

In waging only economic struggles the working class movement is doomed to sectionalism and going round in the same endless circles. In all countries there have been periods, longer or shorter, where the working class movement and Marxism have gone their separate ways, to the massive detriment of both. The thing to do is to fuse them together - not just in words, but deeds.

Suffice to say, by 1903 economism had been defeated, above all due to the hammer blows rained down by Iskra. Yet, in the years that followed it reappeared in new forms and guises. For example, the Mensheviks found themselves inescapably pulled in the direction of economism. Having rejected the Bolshevik strategy of the working class taking the lead in the fight for democracy, aligning with the peasantry and striving to form a post-tsarist worker-peasant government, the Mensheviks turned more and more to highlighting the economic struggles … that and forlornly urging support for the liberal bourgeoisie against the tsarist autocracy.

Not that the Bolsheviks themselves were immune to economism. During World War I a ‘left’ faction emerged around Nikolai Bukharin and Georgy Piatakov. Amongst other things, it counterposed the right of nations to self-determination to the aim of socialism. Self-determination was branded as illusory and damaging. Capitalism, at its imperialist stage, could never grant such a right and under socialism it would anyway be unnecessary, because nations had long ago become anachronistic. Class unity, not national rights, is what really matters.

Lenin called this trend within Bolshevism “imperialist economism”. He wrote a series of devastating polemics.18 Demanding national self-determination was neither illusory nor damaging. On the contrary, the working class would commit the gravest mistake if it left national self-determination to petty bourgeois and bourgeois forces. No, on the contrary, the working class had to win allies amongst the oppressed nationalities by taking the lead in offering a positive, democratic solution to national questions where they exist. Without that the working class could never become the ruling class.

So in Russia there was the economism of Rabochaya Mysl, the economism of Menshevism and the economism of Bukharin and Piatakov. I could add other examples, but I think the point has been made. Economism is not something we Marxists equate with industrial militancy. That would be dumber than dumb. Certainly no-one who counts themselves as a Marxist would denigrate, let alone denounce, striking workers and the attempt to improve their position under capitalism. To do so would be criminal. No, we are dealing with an ‘ism’. Economism is an approach, a debilitating disease that affects the left - a left which denies, dismisses or just downplays the necessity of democracy.


That is why I feel obliged to criticise Leon Trotsky - specifically his 1938 Transitional programme (otherwise known as The death agony of capitalism and the tasks of the Fourth International). Not just because Trotsky tried to make up for the real organised forces he so obviously lacked in the late 1930s. Not just because he fell back onto a programmatic reliance on the unconscious, the untheorised movement of the working class in defence of pay and conditions. Not just because Trotsky claimed that the nature of the epoch “permits” revolutionaries to carry out economic struggles in a way that is “indissolubly” linked with the “actual tasks of the revolution”.19 Not just because Trotsky reduced the question of democracy to merely upholding existing rights and social gains (except when it came to the fascist countries).

True, some of Trotsky’s heirs and successors treated the Transitional programme as holy writ and refused to admit the reality of the long boom of the 1950s and 60s. Nowadays what remains of them - the sects of one, micro-groups, oil-slick internationals - constitute the curios, living fossils, the political equivalent of the Amish and the Plymouth Brethren. However - and this is the point - the more intelligent, the more influential, the more promising amongst Trotsky’s heirs and successors imagine that, with the return of mass unemployment and the renewed onset of economic crises, the conditions are once again ripe to apply the Transitional programme, or at the very least the ‘transitional method’.

The underlying assumption being, firstly, that Trotsky correctly applied the lessons of Bolshevism and the early Comintern; secondly, that he was basically right about the tasks in 1938; thirdly, that periods of economic growth and rising living standards hinder, deflect or at worse derail the socialist project; fourthly, that alone capitalist crises, instability and threats of war allow us to organise and gain a wide hearing.

Most present-day followers of Trotsky show very little real understanding of the history of Bolshevism. Instead of studying the whole of its history, there is a blinkered concentration on the February-October 1917 period - and that they get radically wrong.

By contrast, Lenin stresses - eg, in ‘Leftwing’ communism (1920) - the necessity of undertaking a “profound analysis” of the Bolshevik Party, from its inception in 1903 through every stage of its struggle; including the compromises, retreats and manoeuvres.20 Only then can one grasp the lessons of Bolshevism. Lenin chided those on the left who could only see the armed demonstrations, the soviets and the overthrow of Kerensky’s provisional government.

Lenin urges, instead, that Comintern affiliates take on board the Bolsheviks’ countless open polemical struggles against opportunism, their minimum-maximum programme, their alliance with the peasant masses, their consistent championing of democracy, their successful participation in tsarist elections, the speeches of its duma deputies, the patient building of their hugely popular press, their recruitment and training of tens of thousands of cadre. All such developments built, steeled and established the Bolsheviks as the majority party of the working class. A position first established in 1905 and amply confirmed in successive duma elections, the circulation of their press and leadership of trade unions. The Bolsheviks achieved this position because they were able to provide the consistent, the correct leadership, under the most varied conditions: repression, revolution, reaction, imperialist war, democratic freedom, etc.

The idea that communists can only win the majority of the working class under conditions of extreme economic stress, when incremental progress is no longer possible, when systematic reforms are ruled out, is belied by the history of Bolshevism. There is also the little matter of social democracy in Europe. From its founding in 1875 the German Social Democratic Party grew to become not only the biggest fraction in the Reichstag, but a ‘state within the state’. Marxists in Austria, France, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, etc copied the German model … and social democracy won a clear majority of the working class.

It is clear that the early Comintern had a variety of views, when it came to drafting the programmes of its national sections. Some wanted to follow Rosa Luxemburg and replace the minimum programme with the blunt demand for overthrowing capitalism, cancelling the foreign debt and workers’ power. Others wanted to maintain the relevant immediate or partial demands of the old minimum programme, but with the addition of what later became known as ‘transitional’ demands. What is not in doubt, though, is that the leadership of Comintern saw the absolute necessity of its national sections becoming mass parties and winning the majority of the working class.

When it comes to 1917, there is, of course, the most outrageous myth-making. Supposedly Lenin discards the history, programme and perspectives of Bolshevism and undergoes a conversion to Trotskyism. A claim promoted by Trotsky himself, of course, in various books and pamphlets. However, with the invaluable help provided by Lars T Lih, we have comprehensively shown this version of history to be nonsense from beginning to end. Lenin, Kamenev and Stalin were able to resolve their minor differences in April 1917 because they were fundamentally united when it came to the history, programme and perspectives of Bolshevism. The Soviet Republic of workers, soldiers and peasants was not a break with the revolutionary dictatorship of the workers and peasants outlined by Lenin in 1905 in his Two tactics. It was its concrete realisation.

New times

To repeat my argument, Trotsky developed his own kind of economism. He substituted spontaneity for mass consciousness and mass organisation. With his Transitional programme, the “existing consciousness” of workers is not only the point of departure: it is now, to all intents and purposes, regarded as unproblematic. In the mind, subject and object are blurred one into the other. Though in ‘normal times’ most are not subjectively revolutionary workers are objectively revolutionary because of the reality of capitalism’s terminal decay and imminent collapse.

In these ‘new times’ it is no longer necessary to educate and organise the working class, so that it is committed to the overthrow the capitalist system and replacing it with socialism. Fighting to maintain existing conditions is all that is required. The constant tussle over wages and hours, putting in place safeguards against the corrosive effects of inflation and state-funded job creation were painted in the reddest or red hues. Surely a case of elevating trade union struggles to the level of socialist politics.

That is why it does not surprise me in the least to read Trotsky’s sympathetic biographer, Isaac Deutscher, and his scathing assessment of the Transitional programme: “not so much a statement of principles as an instruction on tactics, designed for a party up to its ears in trade union struggles and day-to-day politics and striving to gain practical leadership immediately”.21

The Transitional programme is certainly marred by all manner of ephemeral facts, figures and personalities. It reads more like an antiquated manual for American SWP trade union activists than a programme for Marxist tribunes of the people.

Trotsky insisted that if the defensive movement of the working class was energetically promoted, freed from bureaucratic constraints, nudged in the direction of forming picket-line defence guards and then pushed towards demanding the nationalisation of key industries, it would - little leap following little leap - take at least a minority of the class towards forming soviets and then, to cap it all, the conquest of state power. Or, as Trotsky put it almost religiously, they would “storm not only heaven, but earth”.

Winning the hearts and minds of the majority organising them into a political party was dismissed as a gradualism that belonged to a previous, long dead, era: the era of competitive capitalism. Now, in the era of final collapse, the meagre, squat, but semi-militarised forces of Trotskyism will lead the masses as if by stealth; steer them in their elemental movement towards a series of pre-set transitional demands, which, taken together, are meant to serve as an ascending stairway.

After five years, or maybe 10, they might flock to join the Fourth International in their millions. Winning state power and ending capitalism internationally will, though, be revealed to them as the real aim only during the course of the rising spiral of struggle. Not quite, but almost, socialism as conspiracy. In essence, Trotsky, from a position of extreme organisational weakness, had re-invented the Blanquist putsch or the anarchist general strike ‘road to socialism’.

In explaining his programme of transitional demands, Trotsky takes to task the minimum-maximum programmes of “classical” social democracy. But he warned his band of followers that it would be a terrible mistake to “discard” the programme of old “minimal” demands, “to the degree to which these have preserved at least part of their vital forcefulness”.22 Trotsky was therefore prepared to defend existing democratic “rights and social conquests”. He did not, however, view them as having any particular purchase in and of themselves.

Economism and capitalism

Modern-day economists, just like their Russian ancestors, sincerely talk of the global fight against capitalism and the final aim of socialism. However, the practical effect of their approach is to maintain the workers as an slave class. Wages, hours, conditions, social services, etc are what is deemed to be really important for the workers. This implicit or explicit emphasis on the ‘base’ of capitalist society is, of course, nothing but an unconscious, ideological reproduction of capitalism itself and its unique bifurcation of social life into two apparently separate spheres: the economic and the political. That is why economism constantly reappears.

Let me elaborate. In pre-capitalist society - Asiatic, slave, feudal, autocratic, etc - the extraction of the surplus product was pretty much unproblematic. Typically it was naked and undisguised. Exploiters took and were not in reality obliged to give anything in return. Brute force, or the threat of brute force - ie, extra-economic means - were used to extract surplus product from the immediate producers (tithes, taxes, labour services, etc). This historically established ability to deploy commanding military force was reflected, legitimised and glorified in the exploiters’ elevated legal position: high priests, senators, mandarins, barons, bishops, kings, emperors, etc. Ditto the lowly, despised position of the common people. As a result - be they helots, slaves, coloni or villeins - no-one was in any doubt that they were both oppressed and exploited. Hence, the class struggle spontaneously runs straight to the political.

Capitalism, however, exploits indirectly through the generalisation of wage labour and the market. A social form which apparently equalises the relationship between exploited and exploiters - workers themselves ask for a ‘fair day’s pay’ in return for a ‘fair day’s work’. Exploitation is thereby hidden and mystified within a sphere which bourgeois ideologists seal off from the rest of society under the rubric of ‘the economy’. The economy is treated ahistorically as a mere technical arrangement and drained of all social content. In reality the economic is thoroughly political and the political is thoroughly economic.

Capitalist exploitation certainly begins with a defining political act - the bloody separation of the producers from the means of production, as harrowingly detailed by Marx in the last section of Capital volume one - and continues to rely upon a political relationship. Exploitation, and the reproduction of the conditions of exploitation, would be impossible without the state - supposedly a neutral arbiter, but in reality completely partisan - holding a monopoly of the means of force. Though, wherever possible, it remains in the background, state power exists in the final analysis to guarantee the law, property rights and hence the fundamentally unequal relationship between capital and the propertyless class of workers (by ‘property’ we mean, of course, the means of production, not personal property like your clothes, your toothbrush or even your house).

Capitalism not only apparently separates economics from politics: it also separates economic militancy from political consciousness. Class conflict under capitalism spontaneously finds its first expression at the ‘point of production’, in the workplace, and the relationship between employee and employer. Not the exploited against the state. That means class conflict under capitalism is spontaneously downgraded from the political to the economic and therefore to the “local and particularistic”.23 The struggle of medieval peasants against feudal lords - over rents, tithes or labour duties - had an overtly political content. The feudal lord was the state. By contrast, the permanent wages struggle that rages within capitalism, no matter how militant, leaves the wage relationship itself untouched. This is true even if workplace militancy impinges upon management’s right to manage.

That need not, however, present an intractable dilemma. Capitalist progress does not go hand in hand with a systemic decline in political consciousness. There is no reason to look back fondly at pre-capitalist societies. The historic significance of Bolshevism is not merely due to the application of Marxism to a backward country. No, the real historic significance of Bolshevism lies in its ability to overcome the separation between economic militancy and political consciousness ... this is what allowed the working class to exercise hegemony over the peasant masses and look to rousing Europe to make socialism revolution. Without combating, without defeating economism that would have been impossible.


1. lexit-network.org/appeal. When exactly Britain was “democratic” and the people were “sovereign” is a nonsense I shall leave aside here.

2. socialistresistance.org/oppose-tory-brexit-and-win-a-radical-labour-government/12818.

3. T Cliff Lenin Vol 1, London 1975, p59.

4. I Frolov (ed) Dictionary of philosophy Moscow 1984, p118.

5. B Jenkins Socialist Outlook January 2001.

6. P Radcliff Weekly Worker January 11 2001.

7. J Creegan, Letters Weekly Worker August 2 2018.

8. VI Lenin CW Vol 5, Moscow 1977, p317.

9. N Harding (ed) Marxism in Russia: key documents 1879-1906 Cambridge 1983, p28.

10. Ibid p29.

11. VI Lenin CW Vol 4, Moscow 1977, pp367.

12. E Bernstein Evolutionary socialism New York 1961, p202.

13. Ibid pxxiv.

14. VI Lenin CW Vol 4, Moscow 1977, p368.

15. VI Lenin CW Vol 5, Moscow 1977, p383.

16. VI Lenin CW Vol 4, Moscow 1977, pp366-67.

17. VI Lenin CW Vol 5, Moscow 1977, p384.

18. See VI Lenin, ‘A caricature of Marxism and imperialist economism’ CW Vol 23, Moscow 1977, pp28-76.

19. Ibid p114.

20. VI Lenin CW Vol 31, Moscow 1977, p24.

21. I Deutscher The prophet outcast Oxford 1979, pp425-26.

22. L Trotsky The transitional programme New York 1997, pp114-15.

23. E Meiksins Wood Democracy against capitalism Cambridge 1999, p45.