Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Lechínist, not Leninist

“Revolutionary History” is an ecumenical Trotskyist journal published in Britain. This is the Summer 1992 issue (Vol 4, No 3). It carries the slightly menacing motto “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it”. The journal is very uneven and I can't really recommend it, unless you are extremely interested in the Trotskyist movement and already possess a working knowledge of its many splits and branches. That being said, “Revolutionary History” is interesting in the sense that it's one of the few projects uniting Trotskyists from many different organizations. Usually, these groups fight each other! For a while, even the super-sectarian Spartacist League was involved, but the Sparts left (with their money) after various conflicts. In terms of magazine content, the loss wasn't terrible.

About half of the Summer 1992 issue is devoted to the role played by the Trotskyist party POR in the Bolivian revolution of 1952. To most “Westerners” this event is probably completely unknown, but it's an important landmark in Bolivian history. It was also important for the Trotskyist movement. At the time, the Fourth International supported the POR and its leader Guillermo Lora. Later, some Trotskyist groups got second thoughts and began to accuse the POR of having derailed or even betrayed the revolution. Unfortunately, most articles (or rather lengthy excerpts from such) published in “Revolutionary History” don't really clarify the issue, and the whole thing feels like an exercise in extended bibliography (I admit that a scholarly researcher might find the bibliographical section useful). The one exception is José Villa's article, which proves that Lora's POR supported the nationalist and Peronist-inspired MNR, especially its left wing around Juan Lechín. Villa semi-humorously calls the POR “Lechínist” (rather than Leninist).

I suppose you could say that the MNR “derailed” the 1952 revolution. The problem with Villa is that his political alternative to POR's more pragmatic line is a completely sectarian one: Trotskyists should simply “denounce the bourgeois nationalists”, call on the workers to turn the labor unions into soviets, and that's that. Of course, a small sectarian group will never “derail” a revolution, since it doesn't have any influence over it to begin with!

The most peculiar excerpts translated and reprinted by “Revolutionary History” come from the pen of Guillermo Lora himself. Lora admits that the POR suffered from a nationalist deviation, but blames everything on his fellow party members and on Fourth International leader Michel Pablo, who supposedly kept Lora busy with trivial matters in Paris so he couldn't return to Bolivia in time to take charge of things. Lora also blames his own character – apparently, the man is such a genius that he didn't took his opponents within the POR seriously enough to challenge them?!

Yeah, that's what happened. Sure. The old fox would be more honest simply stating that he really does support Bolivian nationalism…

The other half of “Revolutionary History” is a smorgasbord of book reviews, reviews which often express a distinct political line. The journal's contributors are strongly anti-Stalinist, but occasionally say things which challenge my credulity. Walter Kendall (admittedly no Trotskyist but a pro-EEC broad leftist) seems to imply that Draza Mihailovic, the right-wing Chetnik leader in Serbia during World War II, wasn't a Nazi collaborator, that Churchill was tricked by Stalin's operatives into supporting the Yugoslav Communists, and that perhaps support for “General” Mihailovic would have been preferable. Regardless of what you think of Kendall's article, why was this published in a far left journal? Perhaps I've simply misunderstood a remarkably objective reviewer…

Some intramural Trotskyist polemics have been sneaked in, despite the ecumenical character of the journal, such as ex-Spartacist Fred Purdy's attack on anti-Spartacist Michel Varga. Kendall (again!) contributes an item on the mysterious Bruno Rizzi, whom he apparently knew personally. In an unexpected move, Al Richardson (the editor) accuses US Mandelite Paul LeBlanc of being a dogmatic Lenin-hugger and Cannonite. Usually, Ernest Mandel's supporters (i.e. the dominant tendency within the Fourth International) are accused of being too soft!

Ironically, the potpourri in the second half of “Revolutionary History, Summer 1992” was more interesting than the material on Bolivia, the main staple of this issue…

No comments:

Post a Comment