The anti-Stalinist left and the politics of wikipedia
The politics of wikipedia are kind of interesting. Obviously, I think it's important that the things I care for (the Arbayter Fraynd, Anti-Fascist Action, Yiddishkeit) are kept safe from what Marx called "the gnawing criticism of the mice", so that motivates me in working on these sorts of articles. But I do it in a scholarly, decent type of way (contrasting, perhaps to my blogging style?).
Anyway, here's the article(below the fold)
The anti-Stalinist left is that element of the political left which has been critical of Stalinism, the regime that developed in the Soviet Union under Joseph Stalin. Whereas the term anti-communist is at once more general - in the sense of opposition to a wider variety of forms of communism (see criticisms of communism) - and more specific - in the sense that it is associated with right-wing politics, the Cold War and sometimes the moral panic of McCarthyism. The term anti-Stalinist left tends to be used in relation to those currents of the left that define themselves centrally in opposition to Stalinism, rather than anyone on the left who is critical of Stalinism.
In general, the anti-Stalinist left has been heavily critical of the lack of democracy and freedom in Stalinist states, and of the anti-democratic way that Communist parties have functioned elsewhere.
There have been broadly four main currents of the anti-Stalinist left:
Some on the anti-Stalinist left have moved right, becoming Cold War anti-Communists and even (in the United States) neoconservatives.
- Left communism: The Communist Left was initially enthusiastic about the Bolshevik revolution, but lines of tension between the Communist Left and the leadership of the Communist International opened up very soon. Left communists such as Sylvia Pankhurst and Rosa Luxemburg were among the first left-wing critics of Bolshevism. Left communists see communism as something that can only be achieved by the proletariat itself, and not through the dictatorship of a vanguard party acting on its behalf. (See also council communism, Marxist humanism, ultra-left, luxemburgism.)
- Anarchism: Again, anarchists like Emma Goldman were initially enthusiastic about the Bolsheviks, particularly after dissemination of Lenin's pamphlet State and Revolution, which painted Bolshevism in a very libertarian light. However, the anarchists were suppressed by the Communist state before Lenin's death (e.g. in the suppression of the Kronstadt rebellion and the Makhnovist movement). Anarchists and Communists were also in armed conflict during the Spanish civil war. Anarchists are critical of the statist nature of Stalinism, as well as its cult of personality around Stalin (and around subsequent Stalinist dictators, such as Mao or Fidel Castro).
- Democratic socialism and social democracy: Although many in the mainstream socialist parties were suppotive or fellow travellers of Stalinism, a significant current of the democratic socialist movement has defined itself against Stalinism. This includes the POUM in Spain, George Orwell and the Independent Labour Party in Britain (particularly after the Second World War) and, in America, the New York Intellectuals around the Partisan Review magazine. Democratic socialists have opposed the top-down, authoritarian or totalitarian nature of Stalinist "socialism".
- Left Opposition/Trotskyism: The associates and followers of Leon Trotsky, organised in the Left Opposition within the Communist parties before they were purged in the 1930s (see Moscow Trials). Trotskyists subsequently formed the Fourth International in opposition to the Stalinist Third International. Trotsky saw the Stalinist states as deformed workers states. Less orthodox Trotskyists have seen it as a new form of class state, called bureaucratic collectivism (James Burnham) or as state capitalist (Tony Cliff, C.L.R. James).
The emergence of the New left and the new social movements of the 1950s and 1960s led to the revival of interest in the anti-Stalinist left and its alternative forms of Marxism. British cultural studies (e.g. Raymond Williams, Italian autonomism/workerism (e.g. Antonio Negri), the magazines Telos and Dissent in America, and French groups like the Situationists and Socialisme ou Barbarie and later nouveaux philosophes are examples of this.
Important figures in the anti-Stalinist left
- Daniel Bell
- Maurice Brinton
- James Burnham
- Cornelius Castoriadis
- Tony Cliff
- Guy Debord
- Raya Dunayevskaya
- Sidney Hook
- Irving Howe
- C.L.R. James
- Karl Korsch
- Claude Lefort
- Dwight Macdonald
- Mary McCarthy (author)
- Herbert Marcuse
- Paul Mattick
- Andres Nin
- George Orwell
- Anton Pannekoek
- Otto Rühle
- Rudolf Rocker
- Maximilien Rubel
- Victor Serge
- Boris Souvarine
- Leon Trotsky
- Fredric Warburg
- Alan Wald The New York Intellectuals, The Rise and Decline of the Anti-Stalinist Left From the 1930s to the 1980s. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1987. 440 pp (See review by Paul LeBlanc here)
Bonus link: Trotskyist chat-up lines 1 & 2 from Dave Osler