Rosa on Lenin p298 Mimi’s Critique

lenin catLaugh out loud passage in Rosa Luxemburg’s letter of April 2 2011 to Kostya Zetkin (Clara’s son) about Lenin’s visits and the sharp dialectical criticism of Lenin by Mimi the cat.

While there are many who would criticise Lenin without reading or meeting him, the critical support that Rosa provides – the contestation, disagreement and solidarity, are exemplary, as is the cat.

And it confirms all I wanted to say about the politics of cats  – The Politics of Cats – first version, later published in Stimulus Respond in an article of which I am still quite pleased – available as part of Handpicked, by Pavement books.

Yesterday Lenin came, and up to today he has been here four times already. I enjoy talking with him, he’s clever and well educated, and has such an ugly mug, the kind I like to look at … Mimi [Rosa’s cat] … impressed Lenin tremendously, he said that only in Siberia had he seen such a magnificent creature, that she was a barskii kot—a. majestic cat. She also flirted with him, rolled on her back and behaved enticingly toward him, but when he tried to approach her she whacked him with a paw and snarled like a tiger.

from p 289 of ‘The Letters of Rosa Luxemburg’ eds Georg Adler, Peter Hudis and Annalies Laschitza. verso
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Xmas teaches kids to love capitalism #365shoppingdaystogo

Just leaving this gem here in the Crimbo file in anticipation of being grumpy about it next year as well.

Creepy Christmas Lenin [Ленин на ёлке]

by Ross Wolfe

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Just in time for the holidays.

Needless to say, these creepy Christmas portraits were not Lenin’s idea. One can only guess how horrified he would have been if he had lived to see them. Christmas was abolished as an official holiday by the Bolsheviks starting 1918, roughly a year after the October Revolution. By 1935, however, Stalin’s government decided to reintroduce Santa to the children of the USSR. Poskrebyshev, a member of the Central Committee, enacted the reform.

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Well, to expand a bit, it wasn’t Santa quite as we’d think of him. It was based on the old Russian version — Ded Moroz [дед Мороз], that is — different from Western Santas in several ways: 1. he isn’t jolly/fat; 2. rather, he’s tall and somewhat menacing. Some important modifications were made for (anti)ideological reasons: 1. ded Moroz no longer wore blue, as he had been turned red by communism; 2. now he wore a more festive hat instead of a boyar’s cap, as this would have harkened back to the feudal past.

Anyway, sometimes Santa was entirely superfluous. Lenin was all you needed. “I don’t know how to break it to you, little Vadim. God’s not real, and was never born, but I brought you some gifts anyway.”

Thanks to Anatolii Krasnopivtsev for the original post in Russian, which I just happened across today. Enjoy!

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Lenin on factory exposures

From What is to be Done, section 3:

Everyone knows that the economic struggle of the Russian workers underwent widespread development and consolidation simultaneously with the production of “literature” exposing economic (factory and occupational) conditions. The “leaflets” were devoted mainly to the exposure of the factory system, and very soon a veritable passion for exposures was roused among the workers. As soon as the workers realised that the Social-Democratic study circles desired to, and could, supply them with a new kind of leaflet that told the whole truth about their miserable existence, about their unbearably hard toil, and their lack of rights, they began to send in, actually flood us with, correspondence from the factories and workshops. This “exposure literature” created a tremendous sensation, not only in the particular factory exposed in the given leaflet, but in all the factories to which news of the, revealed facts spread. And since the poverty and want among the workers in the various enterprises and in the various trades are much the same, the “truth about the life of the workers” stirred everyone. Even among the most backward workers, a veritable passion arose to “get into print” — a noble passion for this rudimentary form of war against the whole of the present social system which is based upon robbery and oppression. And in the overwhelming majority of cases these “leaflets” were in truth a declaration of war, because the exposures served greatly to agitate the workers; they evoked among them common demands for the removal of the most glaring outrages and roused in them a readiness to support the demands with strikes. Finally, the employers themselves were compelled to recognise the significance of these leaflets as a declaration of war, so much so that in a large number of cases they did not even wait for the outbreak of hostilities. As is always the case, the mere publication of these exposures made them effective, and they acquired the significance of a strong moral influence. On more than one occasion, the mere appearance of a leaflet proved sufficient to secure the satisfaction of all or part of the demands put forward. In a word, economic (factory) exposures were and remain an important lever in the economic struggle. And they will continue to retain this significance as long as there is capitalism, which makes it necessary for the workers to defend themselves. Even in the most advanced countries of Europe it can still be seen that the exposure of abuses in some backward trade, or in some forgotten branch of domestic industry, serves as a starting-point for the awakening of class-consciousness, for the beginning of a trade union struggle, and for the spread of socialism.

The overwhelming majority of Russian Social-Democrats have of late been almost entirely absorbed by this work of organising the exposure of factory conditions. Suffice it to recall Rabochaya Mysl to see the extent to which they have been absorbed by it — so much so, indeed, that they have lost sight of the fact that this, taken by itself, is in essence still not Social-Democratic work, but merely trade union work. As a matter of fact, the exposures merely dealt with the relations between the workers in a given trade and their employers, and all they achieved was that the sellers of labour power learned to sell their “commodity” on better terms and to fight the purchasers over a purely commercial deal. These exposures could have served (if properly utilised by an organisation of revolutionaries) as a beginning and a component part of Social-Democratic activity; but they could also have led (and, given a worshipful attitude towards spontaneity, were bound to lead) to a “purely trade union” struggle and to a non-Social-Democratic working-class movement. Social-Democracy leads the struggle of the working class, not only for better terms for the sale of labour-power, but for the abolition of the social system that compels the propertyless to sell themselves to the rich. Social-Democracy represents the working class, not in its relation to a given group of employers alone, but in its relation to all classes of modern society and to the state as an organised political force. Hence, it follows that not only must Social-Democrats not confine themselves exclusively to the economic struggle, but that they must not allow the organisation of economic exposures to become the predominant part of their activities. We must take up actively the political education of the working class and the development of its political consciousness.

 

Statement from #occupylsx

What appears to be the first statement from the London Occupation… is indeed a bit anti-theory – which I agree is strange because it comes out of a group sitting around thinking about what to do – and the demands are only an initial and somewhat abstract step towards building an alternative – yes, actually, how does one nationalize a bank?, I would very much like to see a guide for that – and yet this is wholly necessary: the effort to make something work beyond the repetitious call for ‘another world is possible’ is also here… Maybe its a bit ‘end is nigh’ in tone, and overly reliant on some ‘separate’ labour movement that will come like the cavalry to make us serious, and it flirts with the usual anarcho anti-Leninism that mistakes the British Trotskyite swamp with the Left… but on the whole, I like and welcome this and see it as an improvement on the brand-label slogans that have been our fare so far. Join us in the streets… I would put this entire text on my banner with just a few modifications – and openness to more ‘demands’ – there are always many demands – which is a good thing, no.

From now on there is only action - open letter ( via email )
Dear comrades,

From now on there is only action. The theories are nice to have – the theory
of horizontalism, of communes, of erotic revolt against the capitalist
oppression of our bodies. But the global crisis is moving fast. Whether you
are the Greek Communist Party, or UKUncut, or Anonymous, or Die Linke or
Lulzsec, or Zizek or just some gang of kids on a corner that likes one kind
of music and hates another: there is no time left for convincing others.

We have to act together.

Capitalism is about to experience a moment of breakdown. The Eurozone’s
financial system is bust: the result will be either a chaotic series of
defaults, provoking involuntary nationalisations and temporary abolition of
market forces by the ruling elite (short selling bans, bans on CDS); or we
will be saved from this by a pre-emptive abolition of the market in
sovereign debt, bank debt, credit derivatives etc.

This stark alternative explains the inaction of Merkel, Trichet, Barosso,
Lagarde: the only plan possible to pre-empt disaster is, to them, disaster:
it is the involuntary socialisation of the finance system.

We have got to this moment of mass, simultaneous, global occupation of space
in the cities of the world through a painful process.

Committed minorities put their bodies in the way of harm: from Climate Camp
to Gaza to Tahrir Square to Syntagma to Wall Street. There is a natural
feeling of jealousy, of ownership, among those who got us this far: that the
new masses being dragged onto the cold pavements do not understand the finer
points of theory, were not kettled the year before, were not part of this or
that iconic Facebook group.

But get ready for something bigger: the labour movements of the world are
grinding slowly into action. Cumbersome, slow, bureaucratic, hierarchical,
given to forming a committee to solve a problem that can be sorted out with
an iPhone. Yes. But decisive. In Greece right now, workers are doing what a
molotov cocktail cannot: stopping the printing of tax forms, stopping the
IMF delegations from even checking into their hotel rooms.

Right now the problem of the spontaneous movements, wherever they have set
up camp, is their failure to articulate with the levers of control currently
held by the rich elite. In a period before a crisis, or a period of
hopelessness, this is not a problem: creating the alternative nucleus of a
better world does not need one to get dirty in the business of the possible.
Living despite capitalism was a good idea and still is. Demanding the
impossible was, and remains, an act essential to liberate one’s mind.

But.

The crisis is going to bring the impossible onto the agenda. It will be
necessary to construct a pathway from where we are to what we want to
achieve.

Failure to connect with the levers of power, of policy, of the actual, of
the concrete always leave opposition movements open to being used as a walk
on army for the reformists: reform by riot – a division of labour by which a
kid in a hoodie goes to prison for two years and a man in a suit gains
sudden acceptance of his liberal reform plans – is as long as the history of
capitalism.

It is too late for that now.

The movement needs to have demands: not impossible ones but concrete ones.
Not schematic, drawn from the theories of various left philosophers but
based on action. The movement should combine demands, objectives, with the
new means of achieving them: where the social democrat calls for
nationalisation, the movement of the masses calls for decentralised social
ownership and takes physical control of the seized assets.

It will come down to this in practice. Soon numerous European banks are
going to go bust; maybe even some states. In some places ATMs will close.
There will be a right wing backlash: the authoritarians and the racists are
swarming to join the riot squads and the reserve military formations to get
their chance to break our heads. They will break the heads of migrants, the
oppressed; narratives of racial and religious purity will appear; narratives
of “national economic interest: dead for decades will be revived. It is
possible to live "despite capitalism"  - it is not possible to live "despite
quasi fascism": there is no space in right wing crisis capitalism for
anything - first books burn, then bodies.

In the 1930s fascism won because the workers movement and the progressive
left refused to unite in action, letting their differences –not just of
politics but of lifestyle and of historical rivalry – get in the way of
unity.

Today, with social media, instant unity is possible between a variety of
people, and it can last microseconds or long enough to take and hold a
square. The united front is replaced by the flashmob. Soon we are going to
have to take and hold banks, insurance companies, pension funds. And we are
going to have to keep the system running – the system many of us would see
destroyed – until it can be morphed, reformed, dismantled in a way that does
not smash the lives of a whole generation.

We cannot leave politics to the politicians and economics to the economists,
reserving for ourselves only the streets, the camps, the symbolic act,
hilarious graffiti and acts of kindness.

We have to deconstruct and replace both mainstream politics and economics;
we cannot become passive consumers of the alternatives offered by the “great
and good” of the liberal left. It is for the exploited and oppressed to
create these alternatives themselves.

Comrades – do not be frightened of demands. They need not dominate us or
entrap us into hierarchies or timetables from the 20th century. The can
liberate us from the role of being the opera chorus: the spear carriers with
formidable presence whose ultimate role is as warm-up act for the political
divas of Labour, social-democracy, Stalinism and Green Party politics.

I demand – and you may join me if you wish, or amend, delete, reject – the
following:

Nationalise all banks that cannot raise capital to withstand the coming
sovereign debt crisis. Break them up. Create a state guarantee for deposits
but impose 100% losses on shareholders and bondholders. Repurpose what’s
left as development banks and small scale credit for working class
communities and business loans.

Create a socialised banking system – a mixed economy of utility banks,
non-profits, ethical banks, credit unions and mutual societies.

Impose – immediately and universally across Europe and wherever possible
elsewhere – uniform minimum standards for wages, employment rights, rights
for precarious workers. Impose from below: by refusing to work without them.
This will, at a stroke,  remove the possibility of the parallel,
cheap-labour economy that has corroded social solidarity in the rich
countries and regions of Europe. Commit ourselves to a high wage, high skill
economy, with massive state spending on upskilling and education.

Once this is done, the debate on how much growth we actually want and need
is a real one. Ie, it has a real outcome, not a theoretical warm glow in our
heads.

Statism and central planning are dead, discredited. But now, too, the free
market has failed. Rationality can be imposed on the economy, but from below
as well as above, and using the state as enabler of competition, creativity
and invention, destroying forever the Hayekian objection that rationality in
economics leads to “serfdom”.

Any fiscal union for Europe must be created on terms dictated by the
workers, the poor and the oppressed, not the dim elite who fucked things up
so badly.  It will involve transfers – of taxpayers money from the north to
the south. We are sorry about this, but it will.

The prize – and the only condition for this merger – is that we create a
unified social Europe – from Iraklion to Rekyavik – where social justice is
an inalienable right, and speculation, inequality and exploitation are a
jailable offence.

Our crisis is coming. The American crisis and the Chinese crisis will not be
long following. If we do it – this continent with its 1000 year traditions
of revolt, utopianism, bloodshed and craziness – it will prove to the world
it can be done. Others will follow.

Out of these meagre tents and chickpea soup kitchens will come the new
world. There is nowhere else for it to come from.