Sunday, September 15, 2013

The Doctrine of Secret Socialism

Back in 1998 Jack Barnes (head of the Socialist Workers Party (SWP)) published his book about the collapse of the Soviet empire entitled U.S. Imperialism Has Lost the Cold War. Since, according to Marxist theory, a full-scale war is needed to restore capitalist property relations, and since no war had occurred in the Soviet Union or Eastern Europe, therefore there has been no capitalist counter-revolution. In other words, nothing happened in 1991.

I dubbed this the Doctrine of Secret Socialism. It maintained that people in Eastern Europe still lived in socialist societies, despite being entirely unaware of that fact. The citizens of East Germany, for example, would have been astounded to read in The Militant that they were engaged in a brutal effort to prevent the restoration of capitalist property relations. This showed up in conflicts over child care facilities and abortion laws. Somehow strikes in Romania and Poland were adduced as evidence that the countries were still workers' states. It was silliness all the way around. The theory has quietly been dropped, though to my knowledge never repudiated.

Secret Socialism is an extreme example of low consciousness among the working class. Apparently, the benighted workers can't even tell the difference between capitalism and socialism. The role of the revolutionary Party is precisely to bring them up to speed, i.e., to tell them what they really want so they can want it for themselves. The SWP's doctrine is the most extreme example of the phenomena among the grouplets that I follow, but they're not really alone.

It shows up in The Militant's coverage of the Puerto Rican independence movement. At a UN hearing, for example,
[m]any speakers referred to the Nov. 6, 2012, nonbinding referendum in Puerto Rico on the island’s colonial status — the fourth such vote in 45 years. A few speakers, advocating either statehood or the current commonwealth status, pointed to such votes as a vehicle to achieve their goal. 
'So-called plebiscites administered in a colony can only benefit the colonial authorities,' said independence fighter Juan Antonio “Papo” Castillo of the Puerto Rican Diaspora Solidarity Coordinating Committee, based in Worcester, Mass.
In that plebiscite only 5.5% of voters opted for independence. But, consistent with the doctrine of secret socialism, the slobs don't really know what they want--the Party speaks for them. That's why so-called "revolutionaries" dismiss the result as meaningless.

So we have two examples from the most recent Militant (pdf). A front page editorial comes with the headline No to Assad butchery! No to US intervention! In these sentiments they are of a mind with Rand Paul, the senator from Kentucky, among many others. Indeed, those demands are incontrovertible--nobody except Assad supports his continued butchery, and even neoconservatives advocate US intervention only as the last resort.

Yet the piece closes with this very strange paragraph.
The working people of Syria are fighting for political space and against a brutal regime as they also fight to block reactionary Islamist-jihadi forces seeking to take advantage of the war to broaden their field of operations in the region. We call on working people in this country to stand in solidarity with this fight.
So the war in Syria is about "political space." Who knew? What the hell does that mean? I can just hear some grieving father telling a reporter "My son died so that others can have political space."

Actually, "political space" is just a euphemism for secret socialism. Though they themselves are completely unaware of it, the vast majority of workers and farmers in Syria are communists. They're just waiting for some vanguard Party to tell them so. Or at least that's Dan Fein's theory.
“There is no revolutionary workers party in Syria today,” Fein said. “That will take time and come through struggle and further experience. It’s true the workers and farmers face difficult conditions in the fight to bring down Assad. But look at Egypt! The workers and farmers of that country — in the space of less than two and a half years — overthrew both the hated Mubarak government and then the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood regime that replaced it, winning more political space to organize and defend their interests and keep fighting. Solidarity with the Syrian toilers to do the same!”
So there it is--the Arab Spring is all about political space. The idea is you just keep revolting until you luck out with the right, Communist dictator, which, as a result of the doctrine of secret socialism, you eventually will. If the US intervenes and cuts short the process, then communism will never emerge in the Arab Middle East.

As far as I can tell, there are only two countries in the world where socialism is not secret: Cuba and North Korea. In honor of the 60th anniversary of "the Korean people’s triumph over Washington’s murderous 1950-53 war to conquer that country," Comrades Steve Clark, Tom Baumann, and James Harris took a trip to Pyongyang. They don't say much about what they learned in Pyongyang--presumably that will come, as this is only the first article of a series--but they did take in some of the tourist sites:
Among the anniversary events was the inauguration of a new building and park that substantially expand the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum, first built in 1953. Although most of the new exhibits were not yet open to the public, we visited the outdoor pavilions displaying captured U.S. and South Korean planes, helicopters, tanks, armored vehicles and ordnance from the Korean War, as well as from military actions by Washington and Seoul right up to recent years.
Then follows a long, tendentious history of the Korean war and it's aftermath. Accompanying the article is the annual, execrable statement of support for the North Korean regime.
The Socialist Workers Party and Young Socialists send revolutionary greetings on the 65th anniversary of the September 9, 1948, founding of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. We reaffirm our commitment to the fight to reunify Korea and to end the partition Washington sought to legitimize earlier that year with bogus UN-“supervised” elections imposing the Syngman Rhee tyranny on working people below the 38th parallel.
So that plebiscite also failed to ratify the secret socialist ambitions of the Korean people. By voting for Syngman Rhee, South Koreans were doomed to become one of the richest nations in the world. Apparently, in their heart of hearts, they still lust to be ruled by that genius of a man, Kim Jong-un. Only your revolutionary vanguard Party knows.

The Militant's slogan is Korea Is One! That will happen, but not because of secret socialism. Instead, North Koreans will have to pull themselves up by their bootstraps in a global, capitalist economy that will be both very challenging and very enriching.

Unlike Marxists, we say Down With Poverty! And there's nothing secret about it.

Further Reading:

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