Hal Draper, Numpty!

(I've changed the title from Muppet to Numpty, which is a good Scots word meaning "Someone who (sometimes unwittingly) by speech or action demonstrates a lack of knowledge or misconception of a particular subject or situation to the amusement of others." I've also taken the opportunity of improving the writing somewhat.)

I've already written some critiques of Leninist Hal Draper and his silly attacks on anarchism. For example, his notion that "Of all ideologies, anarchism is the one most fundamentally anti-democratic in principle" is truly mad -- fascism is more democratic than anarchism? Monarchy? Get real!

However, that is what you expect with Leninists. What gets me is his bad scholarship. I've covered his somewhat incorrect assertions on Lenin's What is to be Done?" but as part of my revision of section H of An Anarchist FAQ I've discovered another, even worse, mistake.

This relates to the Marxist theory of the state and how the SPGB rather than Lenin is correct. As this exclusive extract of the next version shows, Marx and Engels did see the revolution as a process of transforming the democratic republic rather than smashing it.

So not only did Lenin distort the anarchist position in State and Revolution (as would be expected), he also distorted the Marxist one! Admittedly, he did do a good job of it -- even presenting quotes from Marx and Engels is not enough to convince the typical non-SPGBer! If people are interested, I'll post some other quotes about this next week.

From the next version of AFAQ

Three years later, Engels made his position clear when he stated that "[w]ith respect to the proletariat the republic . . . is the ready-for-use form for the future rule of the proletariat." [Marx and Engels, The Socialist Revolution, p. 296] This was, significantly, simply repeating Engels 1891 argument from his critique of the draft of the Erfurt program of the German Social Democrats:


"If one thing is certain it is that our Party and the working class can only come to power under the form of a democratic republic. This is even the specific form for the dictatorship of the proletariat, as the Great French Revolution has already shown."
[Collected Works, vol. 27, p. 227]

Clearly Engels does not speak of a "commune-republic" or anything close to a soviet republic, as expressed in Bakunin's work or the
libertarian wing of the First International with their ideas of a
"trade-union republic" or a free federation of workers' associations. Clearly and explicitly he speaks of the democratic republic, the current state ("an evil inherited by the proletariat") which is to be seized and transformed as in the Paris Commune.

Unsurprisingly, when Lenin comes to quote this passage in State and Revolution he immediately tries to obscure its meaning. "Engels," he says, "repeated here in a particularly striking form the fundamental idea which runs through all of Marx's work, namely, that the democratic republic is the nearest approach to the dictatorship of the proletariat." [The Lenin Anthology, p. 360] However, clearly Engels does nothing of the kind. He does not speak of the political form which "is the nearest approach" to the dictatorship, rather he speaks only of "the specific form" of the dictatorship, the "only" form in which "our Party" can come to power.

Hal Draper, likewise, denied that Engels meant what he clearly wrote, arguing that he really meant the Paris Commune. "Because of the expression 'great French revolution,'" Draper asserted, "the assumption has often been made that Engels meant the French Revolution of 1789; but the idea that he, or anyone else, could view 1789 (or 1793) as a 'dictatorship of the proletariat' is too absurd to entertain." [The 'dictatorship of the proletariat' from Marx to Lenin, p. 37fn] Yet, contextually, no evidence exists to support such a claim and what does disputes it -- Engels discusses French history and makes no mention of the Commune but does mention the republic of 1792 to 1799 (significantly, Lenin makes no attempt to suggest that Engels meant the Paris Commune or anything else bar a democratic republic).

In fact, "[f]rom 1792 to 1799 each French department, each commune, enjoyed complete self-government on the American model, and this is what we too must have. How self-government is to be organised and how we can manage without a bureucracy has been shown to us by America and the first French Republic." Significantly, Engels was explicitly discussing the need for a "republican party programme", commenting that it would be impossible for "our best people to become ministers" under an Emperor and arguing that, in Germany at the time, they could not call for a republic and had to raise the "demand for the concentration of all political power in the hands of the people's representatives." Engels stressed that "the proletariat can only use the form of the one and indivisible republic" with "self-government" meaning "officials elected by universal suffrage". [Op. Cit., pp. 227-9]

Clearly, the "assumption" Draper denounced makes more sense than his own or Lenin's. This is particularly the case when it is clear that both Marx and Engels viewed the French Republic under the Jacobins as a situation where the proletariat held political power (although, like Marx with the Paris Commune, they do not use the term "dictatorship of the proletariat" to describe it). Engels wrote of the ruler of the Mountain party" as being "the short time when the proletariat was at the helm of the state in the French Revolution." Thus "from May 31, 1793 to July 26, 1794 . . . not a single bourgeois dared show his face in the whole of France." Marx, in 1847, wrote of this period as one in which "the proletariat overthrows the political rule of the bourgeoisie" but due to the "material conditions" its acts were "in service" of the bourgeois revolution. The "bloody action of the people" only "prepared the way for" the bourgeosie by destroying feudalism, something which the bourgeoisie was not capable of. [Op. Cit., vol. 6, p. 373, p. 5 and p. 319]

Apparently Engels did not consider it "too absurd to entertain" that the French Republic of 1793 to 1794 was "a 'dictatorship of the proletariat'" and, ironically, Draper's "anyone else" turned out to be Marx! Moreover, this was well known in Marxist circles long before Draper made his assertion. Julius Martov (for example) after quoting Marx on this issue summarised that, for Marx and Engels, the "Reign of Terror
in France was the momentary domination of the democratic petty bourgeoisie and the proletariat over all the possessing classes, including the authentic bourgeoisie."
[The State and Socialist Revolution, p. 51]

  


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